The food of the Netherlands developed from the country’s early origins in labor and agriculture. It’s only in recent years, enabled by modern brands and products, that home cooks in the Netherlands are expanding their palates, and taking Dutch food global. 

For centuries, the Dutch diet was rich in dairy and grains, supplemented with meat and vegetables. Staple dishes like snert, stamppot, gehaktballen, or pannekoeken are filling and hearty, high in fat and carbohydrates, and simply seasoned. In coastal regions, fish and seafood are widely enjoyed. Simple meals in the Netherlands often consist of little more than bread with cheese, meat, or hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles).  

In the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company brought the foods of the world to the Netherlands. New and exotic spices, sugar, tropical fruits, and of course coffee and tea became more affordable and available, giving the middle classes new and different options for cooking. However, despite the enthusiastic adoption of coffee and tea, and the invention of speculaas, most home cooking in the Netherlands remained rustic and local. 

Influences on Daily Dutch Cooking

Contemporary Dutch cooking is heavily influenced by two factors, which have the net effect of working in opposition to each other. 

  • Huishoudschool. In the late 1800s, the Dutch developed standardized education for girls in the form of the Huishoudschool (school of home economics). These schools taught the skills of keeping a household and/or being a domestic servant, teaching values of frugality, good manners, and healthy foods. The enormous popularity of these schools, and the standardization of curriculum, led to much greater uniformity in the Dutch diet. The schools taught how to make traditional Netherlands wheat or rye breads and potato dishes, and the students all learned to make them in the same way. 
  • Colonial influence. While the Dutch, as colonizers, affected every part of the world that they did business in, the reverse is also true. In the early 20th century, many Indonesians migrated to the Netherlands for study, and after the Indonesian Revolution, this migration increased. By the 1960s, Dutch home cooks were incorporating culinary influences from Indonesia and Suriname into their diets. However, these dishes had a reputation for being time-consuming and difficult to make. 
The historical Conimex brand.

Modern Indonesian-styled food in the Netherlands

This combination of an interest in a wider range of international foods, but a desire to prepare foods that are easy and convenient has created a huge market for Indonesian and Asian-inspired mixes, sauces, and ready-made foods in the Netherlands. Some of the brands meeting this new demand are:

  • Conimex. Starting with their first jar of Sambal Oelek in the 1930’s, Conimex has been making Indonesian-inspired foods for Netherlands households. Part of Unilever, it is the leading Asian food brand in the Netherlands, and exports to 20 other countries. Conimex sauces, marinades, spices and seasoning packets, and Indonesian snacks and condiments make it easy to make delicious Asian-inspired foods. 
  • Inproba. Founded in 1956, Inproba is a family-owned company that provides ingredients for food companies, along with retail products for Dutch families. Inproba sambals and chili peppers are Rainforest Alliance certified, and the company is committed to sustainability in packaging as well as ingredients. They make popular sambal sauces, marinades, seasoning mixes, saucs, chutneys, and other Asian food essentials from their headquarters in Baarn.
  • Padifood. Padifood was started by Theo Thé, who immigrated to the Netherlands with his wife and started an authentic Chinese-Indonesian restaurant. Today, Padifood makes ready-made meals based on the authentic recipes, traditional preparation, and high quality ingredients developed in their restaurant. Their meals are made by hand, marinating meats, steaming rice, and prepared in a wok, and then flash-frozen so they are ready in your kitchen in just minutes, without losing any quality or flavor. 
  • Suzi Wan. Thanks to this great range of packaged foods, sauces, and spice mixes, families in the Netherlands can easily make Asian-inspired dishes part of their daily diet, enjoying a greater range of flavors, textures, and ingredients than ever before. Suzi Wan is a Mars brand.
  • Go-Tan. This family business is run by a food-loving family with Indian/Indonesian/Chines roots in the city of Bandung on the island of Java. In the 1950’s they started the production of Indonesian snacks such as Katjang Shanghai, Bumbu Gado Gado, Krupuk and Teng Teng from their garage. Go-Tan is a well-known established brand in the Netherlands today and celebrated their 65th anniversary in 2019.

Grapefrute finds Raw Material Sourcing Specialists and Product Developers for all types of cuisines and foods, who use influences from various countries and regions to create new convenience food products and recreate authentic recipes that have been around for ages. If you need to expand your R&D or ingredients team, contact us.

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 Indonesian Rice Table (Rijsttafel) in The Hague (Den Haag) in The Netherlands