NPR Berlin Blog
Tue September 11, 2012
'De Molen': Berlin's Only Dutch Snack Bar
I know very little about Dutch food.
What I do know is that on the Damrak in Amsterdam, the main street off the Central Train Station, the fries come in enormous paper cones, and that they're perfect for pretty much any meal, any time of the day.
So when I started asking Dutch people where to go for Dutch food in Berlin, I was directed to De Molen, which translates, rather aptly, to The Mill.
De Molen is a small snack bar wedged in Neue Bahnhofstrasse, a street overflowing with India, Mexican, and Thai food. It's not particularly fancy, but it's not meant to be. It's a place to pop in, grab whatever you're missing from home or indulge in some Dutch nostalgia, and then pop back out.
The walls are orange, painted clogs hang on the wall, plastic tulips in a vase decorate each table, and a small wooden decorative windmill stands in the corner. Right beside the door, a map of the Netherlands is pinned to the wall, surrounded by newspaper clippings in Dutch. Photos of the Dutch royal family spot the small interior. It's a tad overdone, but in the way that's totally acceptable because it appeals to an expat's sense of homesickness.
I can relate: as a Canadian, when I see cheesy moose toys and mounties for sale back home, I scoff. But here in Berlin, I swoon.
The snack bar is run by Uwe Hübner, a German who grew up in Amersfoort, a mid-sized medieval town right in the middle of the Netherlands. He moved to Berlin about 20 years ago and opened the snack bar four years back in response to his own joblessness.
“It's awful being unemployed,” he tells me from behind the counter as he throws bits of potato into the deep fryer's wire basket, the oil sizzling and snapping, exuding that wonderfully greasy fry smell.
“Opening the snack bar was something to do.”
There was also a gaping hole in the market. De Molen is the only Dutch snack bar in Berlin, and it provides the roughly 3,500 Dutch expats here with a little taste of home. There are fries, of course, which come with a number of toppings and extras, but also pindakaas (peanut butter), hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles to put on bread), pannenkoeken (pancakes), frikandel (fried sausage) and a large variety of krokets: a breaded and fried pocket which can be filled with anything from meat to cheese to cabbage.
In fact, almost everything is fried, something Hübner takes great pride in.
“Frying is serious business,” he says. His fries aren't frozen, they're made fresh everyday, which makes a huge difference to the oil temperature, and keeps his product full of flavor.
“What happens when you put frozen fries in hot oil?” he asks passionately.
I honestly don't know, and say as much.
“It changes the temperature!” he cries. This, I realize, is bad for frying.
He lifts the wire basket and shakes the oil off the sizzling potatoes. They sparkle and glow yellow gold. My mouth waters.
What's more, his fries contain 12.5 percent fat, which, Hübner announces proudly, “is less than cheese!” Yet another reason to indulge heartily in our order: french fries smothered in special Dutch mayonnaise, curried ketchup and finely chopped onions.
My friend and I head outside, french fries in one hand, Heinekens in the other, and sit at one of the few outdoor tables lining the busy street. The fries are delicious and crispy, the chopped onions a welcome addition, the curry ketchup not nearly as harsh as the currywurst ketchup I so desperately try to avoid.
Hübner had told me that, for the Dutch, “frying is in our culture.” Leaving De Molen, with a belly full of fries and a head full of beer, I couldn't help but agree, and what a wonderful culture it is.
Life in Berlin
Life in Berlin
Life in Berlin