August 22, 2014

With its feet In the salty water

Zeekraal - a Dutch Delicacy

At a recent visit to Den Haag (The Hague) in Netherlands, I walked in to a little restaurant, just because I was curious, and found this, in a little bowl on the counter. It's something I had never seen before, each little part maybe as long as my little finger from top to bottom, but much much thinner, thin as well grown chives, or thin straws. 

Curious as I am I of course had to ask...

The owner of the restaurant told me that this is a dutch speciality, that grows outside Den Haag (The Hague), with it's feet in the water it sucks up the salt in it's surroundings. He went on and explained a bit more how it is used, it can be served raw or be cooked, often steamed, and served, in salads. He then invited me to try a piece, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I lack the terminology for describing the zeekraal, but it is green, relatively firm, and taste of the ocean, the wild and beautiful sea. 
The name he gave me was Zeekraal. As I didn't write it down I had soon forgotten though, but when I passed a shop the day after, I stopped and went and looked for it, and also bought a little box. 

They were just as tasty as I remembered from the restaurant, and I decided to try them raw this first time, in a salad with spinach, roasted Brussels sprouts, avocado and the salted sarconia, served together with fish. It turned into a gastronomic highlight. I will definitely look for Zeekraal again! It is such an inspiration finding new ingredients to include in the cooking. 

No wonder the Zeekraal gets salty, even the wind taste of it!
In English the name is Salcornia, and in Sweden they are, I learnt from a food discussion group I sometimes participate in, called "glasört", in Gothenburg they have also been sold as "Kristallgräs". This is definitely worth trying! I am not sure if I will be able to find the Salcornia in Asia, or in other areas outside of Netherlands, but if that is the case - well, then I guess I will have to visit Netherlands more often... 

Also; when researching Zeekraal I made a typo and missed one of the "a":s in "Kraal", that lead me to the website "ChefsTalk", an excellent source of inspiration, with beautiful photos of inspiring dishes. Here I found a little appetiser with salmon, cherry tomatoes and zeekraal - salcornia. It's something I definitely will have to try, although I am afraid it may be a bit too much of the saltiness, considering the salmon is already slightly salty. 

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If you read Dutch (I read some but I am not fluent in any way) you can find more about Zeekraal here, on a website for vegetables. Groentenfruit Bureau. Quite an interesting read.

Oh, and if you find Zeekraal in Taiwan or somewhere else in Asia, please drop me a note! 

2 comments :

Joy said...

Czesc from Poland! I wonder if this is the same as samphire in Turkey as well as England. I just saw some and posted the photos in my recent Borough Market blog post. In Turkish, it's called deniz borculu (sea beans) and grows along the Aegean coast. It's delicious as a meze with olive oil and lemon....though I've never attempted to make it at home! :-)

TravellingAK said...

Hi there, just checked in on the post, which I had managed to miss - and I think you may be right, they are at least definitely related, and I do hear from Turkish friends that they also eat it there, mainly steamed though. Learnt from a friend in Sweden that they now have it there too, and just like your English samples, they were grown in Israel. Would be interesting to try them side by side, have a feeling that the cold water in NL may give them slightly different flavour. If they indeed are the same :-)