Is a Kapsalon the Best or Worst Invention from Rotterdam?

A kapsalon in Dutch is a barber shop, but it’s also the name of a fast food dish which originated in Rotterdam. With a staggering 1800 calories, is it really as good as they say?

There aren’t a whole lot of culinary dishes that come from the Netherlands. They’re famous for their cheeses, croquettes (called a kroket in Dutch), bread and beers, but none of those can really be attributed to the Dutch. However, there’s one that definitely comes from Rotterdam. The kapsalon.


Just like how the kebab is attributed to being invented in Germany (although it was two Turkish men making a Turkish dish who invented it), the kapsalon was also “invented” from regular ingredients at a kebab shop.

Here’s the story. There was a barber in Rotterdam who would go to a kebab shop (think European fast-food restaurant) next to his barbershop every day for lunch, and eventually got bored with all the items on the menu. He asked for something special, and the kebab shop complied. When the barber brought his meal back to the salon, his clients demanded to know what he had. He told them to go to the kebab and ask for the kapsalon meal. The name was applied to the dish and immediately stuck. Within months, it had gone international.

But what is a kapsalon? The kebab shop fried up some French fries (technically Belgian fries, but that’s a different story), and covered these with shredded cheese. On top of this, he put a layer of doner meat (sliced lamb, beef or chicken). Finally, he put a layer of salad on top and covered this with salad cream. Yep, it’s massive, and a full portion really does reach as much as 1800 calories!

Kapsalon Portrait

By now, nearly every kebab shop in Rotterdam, and half the shops around the rest of the Netherlands offer the kapsalon. I had several while I was in Rotterdam, but my personal recommendation is the HAS Doner Kebab shop. There’s a few around the city, including one on the main street near the central train station. Their meat is of particularly good quality without a lot of gristle. They also have a vegetarian option available. A small size is about $7, while the “Super” size is about $10 and more than two people can comfortably eat.

Of course, don’t limit your culinary experience of the Netherlands to just kapsalon. Make sure you try the bitterballen (mini kroket balls), kibbeling (mini battered fish filets served with tartar sauce), hutspot (a personal favorite dish made from boiled and mashed potatoes, onions and carrots served with sausages) and follow it all down with some Amstel beer. Just try not to get as fat as I have while living here! I’m sure it’s from all those kapsalons!

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