PURO Travels: Fries with Pinda – a street food postcard from Rotterdam

Street food, a vital element of a city life, can reveal surprisingly many details about inhabitants, their habits and characters. It’s not Michelin-awarded restaurants but all the tiny bars, food trucks and shady market stalls that unfold the life of a city in its entirety, showing us what its inhabitants like, how they live and where they come from. It’s the smells of street delicacies that build an invisible map of a city, while their tastes irreversibly shape the palates of busy city people. For tourists, smells and tastes create a unique trail of places to discover. We want to share with you something we’ve got from our sensation- and taste-seeking Zuza Mielczarek – a postcard from Rotterdam.

Text and photos: Zuza Mielczarek*
Head photo: Warung Rilah




Pickled herring sandwich

Even though the very thought of a slippery and slimy herring makes its opponents shiver with disgust, Dutch people gorge on these North Sea delicacies en masse and with abandon – take one and eat it at once! This characteristic Dutch street food, whose popularity can be compared with that of a New York hot-dog, is nothing but a simple sandwich with herring and onion. You’ll get the best ones on a market, especially during the fresh fish availability period that lasts from May to July. That’s when you may run into the best Hollandse Nieuwe i.e. a seasonal Dutch herring. Moreover, the Dutch 'haring' is far from our typical slippery and sole-like Polish equivalent. Nieuwe haring is a delicate, melt-in-the-mouth fish. And the taste of this snack, assisted by the onion, pickled cucumbers and soft bun, positions itself quite atypically, somewhere between a sophisticated piece of sushi and the classic IKEA hotdog.


where to eat:
Blaak Market, Binnenrotte, every Tuesday and Saturday;
booth at Heemraadsplein (Nieuwe Binnenweg);
during the herring season - a stall on every corner




photo: Fritez - Haute Friture


Dutch fries with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and onion

The next Dutch meal is French fries, but they must be served with Pinda – a spicy sauce based on peanut butter, thick mayonnaise and chopped onion – for that’s when they become a rarity. Haute cuisine of the Dutch street - equally delicious in a shady shack as in a hipster overdesigned bar. But remember while ordering - never ask for for French fries - always for the Dutch ones!

where to eat:
Fritez - Haute Friture, Witte de Withstraat 68a;
or fries foodtrucks spread around the whole city




Vietnamese loempia

Just like many people in Poland can’t imagine their after-party come back without a döner, I, living in Rotterdam, won’t fall sound asleep without eating a loempia first, at least one. The usual scenario, however, includes at least three, for loempias are heavily addictive and cost only 1 euro. The enigmatic name refers to a long Vietnamese spring roll, usually sold at night at a mini food truck with a long and curvy line of party goers in front of it. A crispy loempia served with sweet and sour sauce will make you reach the so-called foodgasm. You’ll never get tired!


where to eat:
Miss Saigon, Hofplein (at night)
or other booths and foodtrucks in the city, day and night





Kapsalon – a Turkish hairdresser’s treat

Speaking of döners, one would think they are served in more-or-less the same ways all over the world – a tortilla or a roll. That’s not the case in Rotterdam! Here, kapsalon (I mentioned it while describing the Rotterdam Centraal building) makes all the running – döner meat with French fries and salad baked with cheese in an aluminum box. The quite peculiar name of the dish is the word for a hair salon. Legend has it that it was coined by a hairdresser, whose salon was located next to a place serving döner, but I’ve always been searching for a deeper, graphic meaning – chopped and mixed ingredients bring to mind hair cut expressively by a crazy hairdresser.


where to eat:
Waldberg, Nieuwe Binnenweg 105A (hipster kebab place where you can drink Club Mate with your kapsalon)
Jaffa Shoarma, Witte de Withstraat 44 (classic kebab place)
or any other local serving kebab




photo: Warung Rilah


Surinaamse broodje - the best sanndwich in the world

I finish the list with my definite no. 1 – a Surinamese sandwich. I got familiar with a culinary tradition and history of Surinam only after I’d moved to Rotterdam. It’s embarrassing to admit, but before trying this locally famous food I wasn’t able to show Surinam on a map. Still, spicy and aromatic dishes, fried pasta and rice, sea food and chicken made me feel the country was somewhere in Asia. How surprised (and geographically embarrassed) I was to find out that this former Dutch colony is a country in South America. When does the “asianness” of the food come from, then? Dutch people had a huge impact on a cultural and ethnic character of Surinam, bringing slaves from another colony – Indonesia. After the end of colonization, in the 1970s, the majority of inhabitants emigrated to the Netherlands and a lot of them decided to open a food joint. Because of the fact that Dutch people love bread and sandwiches, the Surinamese food was adapted to their needs and that’s how the best sandwich in the world came to be – a crispy bun with juicy shrimps, a spicy sauce, sambal and a one-of-a-kind sweet and sour pickled cucumber. Besides famous broodje,  visiting a Surinamese bar, you have to try peanut satay chicken and the saoto soup - a broth where between the floating drops of fat, you can also find some enigmatic mini-fries. So when in Rotterdam, look for a yellow star against a red and green background – it’s the flag of Surinam, heralding culinary sensations!


where to eat:
Warung Mini, Witte de Withstraat 47
Warung Rilah, Schiedamseweg 40A
- these are my favourites but every place under the Surinamese flag is worth visiting



Blaak market

Streetfood treats, in principle,  seem to sink in deep fat and mayo.  Exploring our list, probably more than one vegan or gluten-free person moaned with disapproval and longing for a juicy mango, flowing down the chin. The good direction to get the whole boxes full of this exotic fruit is famous Blaak market. Just to clarify - the iconic Markthal of MVRDV, even though located in Blaak area and serving similar functions, is not the same thing as the open-air market, steeped in authencity and fresh fish smell.  Ripe mangos, avocados and melons, plastic bags full of  sizable papricas and  tomatos. Hummus, olives, fresh herbs, spices...And everything with the accompaniment of sellers screaming "Een euro, een euro, een euro!" - because "one euro" is the price we pay here for almost everything - for a kilo of tomatoes  or a huge box of mangos. And exactly - Blaak market with its chaos and a bit tiring atmosphere, is for me the quintessence of Rotterdam's streetfood.

adress: Binnenrotte, station Blaak




Zuzanna Mielczarek, b. 1990 in Poznań. In 2014, she defended her architectural project of an urban educational farm at the University of Arts in Poznań and obtained the title of an engineer/architect. At present, she lives both in Rotterdam and Poznań and continues her search for design inspiration at Delft University of Technology and Poznań University of Arts.  She’s interested in design as a stimulus for social change and interpersonal relations. She’s been in training in such architectural firms as Medusa Group in Bytom, SHAU in Rotterdam, but also in a furniture design and woodworking studio Atelier 365 in Brussels. Her achievements comprise, among other things, furniture projects and cardboard toys.





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