Somethings The Netherlands does better than anywhere else. The first of these is smoking eels. The Dutch call it gerookte paling and at a good fishmonger's you can even have a choice of farmed or wild eel.. Although during my last trip I didn't come across the wild ones, they appear to be harder to find. These wild eels tend to be smaller, thinner and holds the flavour of the beech wood smoke well. There's a saltiness of the sea in them and they are a little firmer. Farmed eels are still amazing and I can not choose between the two. I like both. Farmed tend to be juicer, fattier and more pate like and the flavour is a little less intense than wild eels. Best to buy them from a fishmonger's anywhere in The Netherlands, remembering they close on Sunday and Monday.
And then there's fresh herring. Also something that is quite amazing. It's raw and served with gerkins and onions. The herring is a bigger deal than the eel for the Dutch. Experts are called upon to decide the official date of the first herring catch. This is based on many things including the plankton levels in the North Sea. Apparently this is an indication on how fat the fish will be. Announcements on the first catch make the National press with indications of the conditions of that year's herrings. There are parties and events all over the country especially in the seaside town of Scheveningen where the first barrel of herring is auctioned off and proceeds are donated to charity.
This year the date for the Hollandse Nieuwe which is the name given to young herring caught between mid-May and the end of June. will take place on June 23rd. I've heard it's an excellent catch with a body fat percentage of at least 16%. The fish are gutted and salted but the pancreas containing an enzyme which helps the fish to ripen is left in place.
Hard to choose between eating eel or herring. It's Dutch street food and you can find them on street booths and markets too.