Thursday, 18 April 2013

Dutch fish and chips- Kibbeling!

Kibbeling- Dutch version of battered fried fish

Prior to coming to England, I was really looking forward to the experience of standing outside a chippy with my paper wrapped, piping hot portion of crispy battered fish and crunchy thick chips, ready to be doused with salt and vinegar. Just the way Dennis the Menace and his sidekick, Gnasher enjoyed it in The Beano comics.

Having lived here for close to three years now, I am sadden to say that...

I have yet to taste good fish and chips!

After having my fair share of dismal or sometimes abysmal fish and chips. I gave up the search. 

Most of what I've had were often:

1. Overly greasy- with oil-trapped pockets in the batter that let loose tiny burst of oil with each bite

2. Battered too thickly - poor batter to fish ratio

3. Gummy due to undercooked batter *shudders*

3. Flavourless fish fillet

and to top that off,

4. Soggy, limp chips (aka. fries)

If you can't get the fish right, at least serve up some decent chips!

It is likely that I might have unluckily visited lousy chippys for my fish and chips fix. However, since it is one of the national dish of Britain, it shouldn't be that hard to find palatable ones right? For instance, I can easily find hawker stalls that sell pretty decent Laksa or 
Nasi lemak around Malaysia. Even the random Pizza al taglio parlours that I've visited in Rome also served up tasty bites.

During my visit to university city of Groningen, I was introduced to the Dutch version of fish and chips. In the Netherlands, it is known as 'Kibbeling' or 'Lekkerbekje', both of which refer to battered fried cod or whiting. The main difference is that lekkerbekje is served as a whole fillet whereas kibbeling is cut into chunks, much like fish nuggets. These snacks are usually sold by mobile seafood trucks or fishmonger stalls at weekend markets.

As we approached the fish-stand in the central market square, Grote Markt, my dear hosts went ahead and ordered a portion of Kibbeling for me. Because of the tall Dutch population, display counters are ridiculously high for a midget like me. I was excitedly tip-toeing and craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the vendor that was preparing our orders in action. 

I watched hungrily as he coated big juicy chunks of fresh cod fish in a thin layer of batter and then dunked them into the deep fryer. The smell that was emanating as the fish cooked was amazing. My heaping portion of kibbeling looked mouth wateringly lovely, with each piece fried to a perfect light gold. I stabbed my fork into one of the golden nugget and eagerly took a bite. The unmistakable crunch as the crispy and delicately thin batter gave way to reveal sweet and tender fish fillet left me speechless. Among the other spices, I could taste lovely hints of sweet paprika and garlic salt in the well seasoned batter.  

Tender and flaky cod fillet encased in crispy thin batter. 

Kibbeling is usually served with a mayonnaise-based remoulade, much like tartar sauce. I took a second bite of my juicy morsel with the sauce and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as cloying as I expected. The slight acidity of the sauce gave the fried fish a refreshingly piquant lift.

After 'working' through my portion of kibbeling at lighting speed, I was very glad to find that there was no pool of oil at the bottom of my container. These were indeed fried to perfection! 

You know it is tasty when it makes an Austrian, a Malaysian and a Catalan that happy!

In this particular stall, you can also order a side of crunchy chips, 'Patat frites' to go with your fish. Which apparently is a rarity in The Netherlands because you can't usually buy both fish and chips from the same place, much to the dismay of my British friends. Chips (or Fries) are often sold separately in a Frites stall or shop. 

Aside from other types of fried seafood such as mussels, shrimps and squid, the stand we visited also sold makreel (mackerel), bokking (herring) and gerrokte paling (smoked eel).

Stacks of steamed mackerel (Gestoomde makreel)

What's the best thing to do after a hearty kibbeling snack/meal? 

Take a walk around the city. 

Explore its nook and crannies, people watch a little then head to the roof top cafe for coffee. Since it was a really warm day, we had ice-cold smoothies to sip away whilst enjoying the view.

Random bike wheel contemporary art? (left) and  Goudkantoor (right)

The 'Goudkantoor', known as the Gold Office in English was originally built in 1635 for the tax collector of Groningen. It later housed the office that authenticated gold and silver. Hence the name I guess.. It is now a restaurant.

Which will you opt for? The gas guzzler or the charming bicycle?

Rooftop cafe with 'Martinitoren' (Martini Tower) - The highest church steeple in Groningen in the background

Do yourself a favour and don't forget to grab some tasty Kibbeling the next time you are in The Netherlands!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hehe you're so right about the Dutch being really tall! I'm short in most countries but I felt absolutely tiny there. I wish I had more time in The Netherlands to try things like this! :D

penny aka jeroxie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love a good fish & chips! Too hard to resist.

Eliza Soh said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

Glad you dropped by! I had problems in the public toilets as I couldn't check my reflection when washing my hands. The mirrors were placed too high up and I could only see the top of my head! Way to improve my self esteem..;)

Eliza Soh said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@penny aka jeroxie

They are aren't they? Crispy succulent morsels of deep fried goods...yum!

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