Tales from Twente: When is a Steak a Steak?
When we first came to live in Almelo, I was quite bewildered by the meat counters in the Dutch supermarkets. Yes, it was meat, but what kind of meat? A roundish blob of packaged meat labelled “steak” didn’t tell me much. So, with high hopes, I used to read the cooking instructions on the back. And ended up with something resembling leather.
Then I discovered frozen imported “rump steak” at the Aldi and Lidl supermarkets. It had the texture of rump steak, only the pieces were quite small. I can recognise and buy fillet steak, known as ossenhaas or tournedos, as well as ribeye steak and entrecote steak – and that’s where it ends.
Words like “porterhouse” and “sirloin” don’t exist and I can’t find any translations or equivalents of anything that looks even vaguely like porterhouse, sirloin or rump. There is biefstuk and Hollandse biefstuk. I ask you – “steak” and “Dutch steak”. They both look like tenderised steak. Some “steaks” are cut with the grain and look like round blobs. So “steak” sometimes seems to mean merely “a piece of beef”.
There’s something called kogelbiefstuk that is quite popular and fairly tender, although not very flavoursome. I think that’s “eye of beef” cut into steaks. It looks something like fillet but the texture is different. “Eye of beef” can come from different cuts, so you still don’t know what is really is. So I’ve spent hours trawling the internet for diagrams, drawings and pictures I can take to the Turkish butcher up the road.
I guess I could go to a Dutch butcher but he might look at me like I’m a little crazy. The upmarket Dutch butchers specialise in preparing small fancy pieces of meat. One butcher’s webpage indicates that biefstuk, kogelbiefstuk and bieflap all come from the upper leg. No mention of ling steaks like sirloin, rump or porterhouse, only ribeye and entrecote, so I guess they wouldn’t be too keen to cut differently.
What would make it more difficult to explain is that the Dutch, the English and the Americans have different primal cuts. I’ve tried printing out a picture of a rump steak, but my printer needs more magenta ink. I’ve tried finding pen and ink drawings of the rump steak cut. How do I explain in Dutch to the Turkish butcher what a rump or sirloin steak is?
This weekend I experimented with three packs of steak from another butcher:
a) biefstuk grown in Ireland and packaged in the Netherlands.
b) kogelbiefstuk grown and packaged in the Netherlands, batch number blah, blah, blah
c) biefstuk“grown and packaged in the Netherlands, batch number yeah, yeah, yeah
Kogelbiefstuk seemed the nicest with the most regular thickness.
I can buy shrinkwrapped, aged biefstuk from the same vendor at R230 (about $33.90) per kilogram. We tried it and it’s quite nice but I can’t tell you what it is. It’s steak.
I have come to the conclusion that Europe is truly a world apart as far as steak is concerned. The big thing here is gourmetten or racletten. Very entertaining and sociable. A kind of indoor table braai on a flat metal plate. It’s a dainty version of Asiatic-style cooking with several sauces available for the cooked bits and pieces. If you google up gourmetten and look for pics, that’ll explain it much better than I can.
So then who wants a vulgar rump steak if you can gourmet or raclette?
All the best,
Dina and Johan