Eating Herring

The New Herring (Nieuwe Haring) season is coming soon. The herring season starts in May/June, and this year, it kicks off in Scheveningen Harbour on 18 June with a festival called Vlaggetjesdag.

At the opening of the season, there used to be a race to bring in the first shipload of herring. This is no longer done but there will be many activities with a nautical theme. The first barrel of new herring always gets special treatment: it is auctioned off for charity and brings in many thousands of euros.

Herring move in schools along the coast and are caught in nets. In spring, they are fat and tasty. Herring is a highly nutritious fish containing Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and vitamin D. Typical pollutants include PCB’s and dioxins, which large fish contain in higher amounts than smaller fish.

The fish are gutted and salted on board the ship, leaving the liver and pancreas in place for enzymes which provide the typical nieuwe haring flavour, a process called ‘haringkaken‘ that was invented in The Netherlands. These are removed in a final cleaning before the herring is served.

Herring are also frozen to kill any parasites, so the fish will be safe for consumption. Marinating or salting is not enough to do this, so it is the law that all the herring are frozen. (The alternative is to cook the fish thoroughly). Thus, it is safe to eat the ‘raw’ herring in The Netherlands.

The traditional way to eat a herring is to hold it by the tail and lower it into your mouth. You can add onions if you wish. You can also ask for the herring “in stukjes” so it will be cut into pieces and served on a paper plate.

At Vlaggetjesdag in Scheveningen Harbour, there will be a market, boat rescue demonstrations, music, old-fashioned children’s games, and people in traditional dress. The program for this year, when published, can be seen at:

All over The Netherlands, the ‘nieuwe haring’ is eagerly awaited and provided by fish sellers everywhere. When they arrive, they will be well advertised. Look for them at the markets and your local fish shops.

It will be in the news who has the best herring. In 2015, that honour went to Simonis in Scheveningen. A map on this site shows the results of herring tests of last year:

For the best experience, do not take chances buying your herring at a supermarket. Last year, the majority of supermarkets that were tested sold spoiled herring:

Good herring will be pink inside and silvery on the outside. Avoid any that look greyish or oily or are improperly cleaned.

Ready to try your first nieuwe haring?

Credit & Attributions

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Posted under: Food for Thought

Media Attributions
Dutch raw herring, copyright Adobe Stock / Picture Partners