What: It means smoked eel—the slippery critters have long been common stock in the North Atlantic (and North Holland’s freshwater Lake Ijsselmeer), but their numbers have declined so dramatically in recent decades that farmed and even imported eels are showing up in the Netherlands. Depending on what month you’re eating it in, it will either be a whole eel (during the spring) or an eel fillet, which is what we were offered in the fall. Fishmongers have told us how incredible the whole eels are—the meat falls right off the bone—but the delicious buttery fillets were nothing to sniff at. Given the eels’ precarious population, we suggest you ask your fishmonger where the eels come from before you indulge—farmed is currently the most sustainable option.
Where: In the De Pijp neighborhood, a local pointed us to Vishandel Molenaar (020-673-5955; Albert Cuypstraat 93) in the middle of Albert Cuypmarkt’s overwhelming options. It’s a shop, not a stand.
When: Mon-Fri, 8-8:30am-5:30pm; Sat, 8-8:30am-5pm
Order: We went with a broodje gerookte paling (€3,95), or smoked-eel sandwich, and couldn’t believe how good it tasted. The fish was wonderfully smoky and buttery (though no butter is used); the white-bread roll soft and fresh. The whole thing melts in your mouth. This is a great spot to try herring too.
Alternatively: You’ll see smoked eel at just about every haringhuis (herring stand) and vishandel (fish shop) in town, but we recommend you visit Frank’s Smoke House (Wittenburgergracht 303, map)—not only is Frank’s a beloved producer of all things smoked, but its eel, like all of its fish, comes from sustainable fisheries.