Yes indeed. After three long years, the eagerly anticipated resurrection of the Great Groningen Eierballen Test is finally upon us! Three years is too long a time for students to have to do without being able to consult an up-to-date test. So here’s your beacon in the murky world of deep-frying delicacies.
So which snackbars – those foundation stones of Dutch society – did we test? Grunn is of course laden with excellent options. Most of these hallowed halls of greasy delights will have the true Groningen snack on the menu, sometimes in a range of exotic versions. It didn’t take long to assemble a list. The last time that Teo – an eierbal tester of yore who founded the fine tradition, yet now retired – passed judgement was in 2017. His out-and-out personal favourite? De Paardeschuur. So they absolutely had to be included in the test, if only out of respect for Teo’s eierbal acumen.
How could we leave out the safe eierbal haven for every late-night reveller in need of a grease fix
Last time round, the winner according to the five-strong jury was Cafetaria Koning, so of course they’re in the running too. As are Friet van Piet, given their status, with the deep-frying fame of these bossy Oosterpoort grease kings rivalling the Martini Tower in stature.
Unfortunately, Kwalitaria Jolie, awarded the people’s prize in 2017, is not in the running, having closed shop in the interim. Instead, we picked up eierballen at Kwalitaria Délifrance Sammy, a snack paradise operating at the same location: Korreweg – De Beren junction. And, last but not least: Big Snack Hoek on Grote Markt. Because how could we leave out the safe eierbal haven for every late-night reveller in need of a grease fix.
Balls at the ready, and action!
Now we know the contenders, it’s chow time! But of course first we need to collect our fare.
‘Moi Paardeschuur, Freek here. I’d like to order three eierballen, and I’ll be picking them up in fifteen, if I can.’ And on we go: ‘Hi, Koning? Can I pick up three eierballen in twenty?’ Yes? Great.’ Next comes a carefully planned pick-up route through Stad, delivering that piping-hot Groningen gold into the eager little hands of our four-strong jury. With a Niagara Falls of sweat coursing down my back, I manage to make it, after a hellish ride through town with a backpack full of deep-fried delight burning away at my backside. Testing snacks, as any Groninger would say, means a tough life, a zwoar leven, mien jong.
‘I would class this as the chlamydia of eierballen‘, I say, wiping my mouth.
At the top-secret test site, the other jury members are drooling in anticipation. Tobias, Ruud, Thom and yours truly adhere to the strict testing regime, tasting blind for crunchiness, fragrance, taste, structure and egg excellence. These marks are averaged and then totalled with the other jury members’ scores for a final rating. That’s how you do it.
Starting off with De Paardeschuur, a very classic and laid-back snackbar with a wide range of eierbal choice. But that’s not for us: our table only features a threesome of the classic version of the Groningen snack. ‘Well-rounded taste’, Tobias immediately cracks. But then eyebrows shoot up in true surprise: ‘This tastes just like Surinamese roti! It’s the egg combined with curry spices that really does it.’ The rest of the jury members are equally delighted. Well, except for Thom, who looked dismayed as he made a valiant attempt to scrape the ragout filling from the roof of his mouth. ‘A tad dry’, he says. ‘And salty.’ He then quietly devours the remains. So maybe it was worth it, Thom? ‘Yeah, it was doable’, he grumbles back.
Final score: 7.5
In decades past, Cafetaria Koning has built quite a reputation among students and Stadjers [the name for Groningen locals, living in Stad] alike. And of course Koning came out tops in the last Great Groningen Eierballlen Test. ‘Wow, exactly the same colour as a Seventies home!’ Tobias roars from across the table. The taste is completely different too. ‘Much more croquette-like’, Ruud passes judgement. The rest of the jury nods in agreement. Not exactly what you expect from an eierbal, but nothing wrong with it either. And what is nice: the eierbal leaves a pleasant burning sensation on the palate. ‘I would class this as the chlamydia of eierballen‘, I say, wiping my mouth. Har har. ‘No, but seriously, this is a good one. I like hot balls.’
Final score: 7.1
Kwalitaria Délifrance Sammy
So no Kwalitaria Jolie. They have closed down for good, and now we’re testing Sammy instead. Same place, so we are dying to try his balls. ‘Jeesh, this egg is tiny, jaaa‘, Ruud exclaims straight away. And indeed it is: a careful cross section reveals an egg that is definitely undersized. To put it mildly, Sammy’s eierballen seem to have been supplied by anaemic city pigeons instead of doped and overfed factory farm fowl. Hot debate ensues about the rest of the categories being tested on: ‘Sort of clay-like structure’, says Ruud. His brother Thom chimes in: ‘The ragout filling is a bit slimy, but the taste is fine. This could be my favourite’, he says, giving it the thumbs-up.
Final score: 5.9
Friet van Piet
There is not a Groninger in the world who does not know Friet van Piet. And if you never heard of them, it’s about time to rectify that and pay the head honchos of the Oosterpoort neighbourhood a visit. The choice is overwhelming for carnivores and vegetarians alike: snack exotica, sauces, as well as that weirdest of recent Dutch food innovations, the kapsalon [literally ‘hairdressers’, but simply everything in the house stacked up and slathered in sauce] … You name it, they have it. But of course the only true question is: do they have an eierbal of note? ‘Hot damn, these smell good!’ Thom beams. ‘Their ragout is excellent too.’ But not everyone shares his enthusiasm. ‘They really screwed up the contents, this egg is like a rubber tire’, says a disappointed Tobias. Ruud responds with a lesson in Dutch: ‘Ha, een taaierbal.’ [Taaier means tougher, we’ll have you know, rhyming nicely (well almost) with eier.] Quit your joking Ruud, this is serious business. This is the 2020 Great Groningen Eierballen Test, no less.
Final score: 6.7
Big Snack Hoek
Big Snack Hoek on Grote Markt: the ultimate place to stuff your face after a night out. It’s party central: always open and with a Great Wall of Snacks that will satisfy your craving for balls 24/7. So that alone would be worth an extra point. But what turns out to be the case? Hoek is in no need of a boost in points. Despite their fare being the last on the table, everyone scoffs down their eierballen in no time at all. ‘True beauty, this ball’, says Tobias. He’s right. Crunchy, rich, with a bit of a bite. This is Grunnegs craftsmanship at its very best. This is what must have fed the builders constructing Martini Tower. It has to be. So does anyone have any other comments about the Hoek balls? ‘It was gone too soon’, quips Ruud, with a winning grin. ‘Is there anything left?’
Final assessment: 7.7
And the winner is… B-B-B-B-Big Snack Hoek! Congratulations! The Grote Markt snackbar has won hands down this time round: they are the one and only 2020 Great Groningen Eierballen Test winners. They came out tops for each member of the jury, for nearly every aspect being judged, scoring excellent marks despite being tested last. That makes you a true champion. De Paardeschuur was a strong contender as well, earning silver, while Cafetaria De Koning took bronze. Piet came in fourth, with Sammy having to cope with coming in fifth. But always remember: assessing eierbal excellence means hot debate.
Photos: Jasper Bolderdijk (c)