Bitterballen: The Ultimate Bar Snack?
Visit almost any Dutch bar and you will find on the menu a snack called bitterballen. Savory and meaty, if eaten too hot they can lay waste to your mouth like a small explosion of napalm, while if too cool they can become a gummy mess. When made from scratch in-house, they can be a flavorful delight, dipped in the ever-present ramekin of mustard, while when served from a pre-made package, as they usually are, they can offer a tricky mix of gumball-hard exterior and soupy middle.
Yet despite all of these qualities, good and bad, bitterballen may be the world’s finest bar snack, seemingly tailor-made for eating alongside chilled lager or light ale.
Effectively a type of croquette (kroket in Dutch), bitterballen provide just the right amount of salty and spicy richness in their chopped meat, butter and broth mixture, chilled until firm, breaded and then deep-fried. They are neither so filling that drinkers will lose their appetites after a plateful, nor so sparse that one is left wanting more. In fact, unless sharing a plate with more than one other person, the snack-sized order normally served in a bar is usually just enough.
Best of all, when bitterballen are well-made, they are excellent, and when they’re pulled from a bag in the freezer and plunged into hot oil, well, they’re still pretty damned good.