The Groningen eierbal, should international students try and taste it?

The eierbal is a typical Groningen snack. Two international gourmets tried it to answer the nagging question: should internationals take a bite?

Among the quaint streets of Groningen lies a hidden gem. It’s cherished by locals and now catching the attention of Dutch society as a whole: the Groninger eierbal. This savoury snack, with its crispy exterior, the creamy, curry ragout and egg in the middle, is about to be discovered in the rest of the Netherlands. Should international visitors try it as well?

It was something he had tried before, something from Asia perhaps, or was it a Scotch egg?

Kyriakos Papasavvas, a physiotherapy student from Cyprus, and Marco Siciliano, a student and photographer from Italy have never eaten an eierbal before. I took them to various places to try these wonderful snacks. Kyriakos soon remarked that it reminded him of something he had tried before, something from Asia perhaps, or was it a Scotch egg? When he took his first bite, he seemed to be surprised. ‘Is this curry?’ he wondered.

An eierbal is a traditional Dutch snack originating in Groningen. You can find it in every snackbar (chip shop) in Groningen. The snack is popular among both locals and visitors for its delicious simplicity. In 2017, the act of consuming an eierbal was officially recognised and placed in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Traditionally, the snack is handmade and cannot be produced by machines. In February this year, however, the province of Groningen subsidised a producer from Sappemeer €45.000 to manufacture the snacks by a machine. This means that the snack can be distributed throughout the rest of the Netherlands, allowing more people to try it.

Some people from Groningen try eating as many eierballen as they can within a fixed timeslot

Different snackbars have different recipes for the ragout. So the taste of eierballen (which is the plural of eierbal) differs from chip shop to chip shop. HanzeMag publishes their famous eierballen test every year, so you can read all about the differences. This year Cafetaria Koning won the eierballen test.

Some Groningen inhabitants like to eat eierballen as a challenge and try eating as many as they can within a fixed timeslot. Kyriakos: ‘I personally don’t think that it is worth the hype, but I also understand. Since the eierbal plays a significant part in Dutch culture and cuisine, I must accept that I’m not completely able to see it from their perspective.’ He might be right. Except that the eierbal is not Dutch cuisine, but Groningen’s. Eierballen are easy to purchase as they are sold everywhere in town.

The eierbal is an easy way to get some idea of Dutch food traditions

But should you try and eat an eierbal as an international? Kyriakos thinks you have to. ‘Internationals should try eierballen, since it’s an easy way to get some idea of Dutch food traditions. I guess that students from eastern countries, who are more familiar with curry, will appreciate it better than I do.’ As Sunday night falls, it is time for us to say goodbye. Gourmets Marco and Kyriakos look back with mixed feelings. Kyriakos thinks he will never eat an eierbal again, Marco is not so sure.

Foto: Jasper Bolderdijk