Kapsalon is a popular fast food dish originating in Rotterdam. Although the Netherlands is famous for its cheeses, croquettes (called kroket in Dutch), bread and beers, none of those can be attributed to the Dutch. While there aren’t many culinary dishes hailing from the Netherlands, kapsalon definitely comes from Rotterdam.
What is kapsalon?
Kapsalon is a fast food dish created in 2003, consisting of a layer of French fries placed into a disposable metal take-away tray, topped with döner or shawarma meat, covered with slices of Gouda cheese, and heated in an oven until the cheese melts. This concoction is then topped with a layer of shredded lettuce and dressed with garlic sauce and sambal.
What is the origin of kapsalon?
Kapsalon means “barbershop” in Dutch. It was invented in 2003 by Nathaniël Gomes, a Cape Verdean hairdresser in the Rotterdam district of Delfshaven, who one day at the neighboring shawarma store El Aviva asked to combine all his favorite ingredients into one dish.
Other customers noticed that Nathaniël Gomes would consistently order this every day and they too started to order the kapsalon, making it a popular snack. With its popularity quickly being spread throughout the country, it was soon being demanded in nearby snack bars.
This dish is a product of Dutch multiculturalism, combining elements of dishes from multiple cultures for example in some places the shawarma meat may be replaced with chicken, or doner kebab meat. In 2017, the kapsalon reached the Nepalese capital city of Kathmandu when a chef returning from a visit to the Netherlands was asked to prepare a “typically Dutch” meal. Now chicken or fish replace the shawarma meat, and a porcelain plate substitutes for the metal tray.
How to make a kapsalon
Kapsalon is built in several layers, starting with French fries. Knoflooksaus (garlic sauce) can be traced back to a city located in the south Catalonia, in the northeast of Spain. Sambal, usually contains over 75% of chilies and has its origins in Indonesia, which was once a colony of the Netherlands. Melted Gouda cheese named after its place of origin, Gouda, and dates back to the 12th century. This semisoft cow’s milk cheese is described to be a great melting cheese which is perhaps why it is used as the cheese for this dish. And of course the main ingredient shawarma made from chicken or veal.
The diversity of the dish
The very existence of the kapsalon is a clear explication of the layered and fractured diversity, defying conventional images of languages, groups and competence as it is a complex synchronization of cultures coming together.
Ultimately, this dish, and many others like Hawaiian snack spam musubi, Canadian butter chicken wrap and the Dutch shoarma pizza are products of a mishmash of cultures that can be made possible only through the diversity of cultures.
Shawarma originated in Anatolia, Turkey, from the 18th century. It comes from the Turkish term cevirme, meaning “turning something” to describe a chef turning the rotisserie by hand. With the rise of technology, the rotisserie now rotates on its own, and as such, the Turks call it döner whereas Arabs continue to refer to it as shawarma.
Today, nearly every kebab shop in Rotterdam and most of the shops in the Netherlands offer kapsalon. There are vegetarian versions as well being made with falafels. This fast food also packs on a staggering 1800 calories.
Filling, practical, and influenced by various national cuisines, kapsalon is a perfect example of how culinary traditions from different sides of the world can create a favorite meal.
- 1 lb veal cutlets (or chicken cutlets), thinly sliced
- 4 oz. grated Gouda
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small cucumber , sliced
- 2 tomatoes , sliced thinly
- 4 oz. lettuce, chopped
- ½ cup garlic sauce
- Sambal sauce (or hot sauce), to taste
- 1 kg potatoes
- 4 lb beef fat
- Fine salt
- Rinse the potatoes, peel them and rinse them again. Dry them well in a cloth.
- Cut the potatoes into French fries, regular width and length, about ½ inch (1 cm) thick.
- Dry the potato sticks with a cloth again.
- Melt the beef fat in a fryer and then heat to 140°C (280 F).
- Fill the cooking basket with fries, without packing them too much, then immerse the basket in the frying bath for 6 minutes.
- Shake the basket a little during frying to prevent the fries from sticking together. They should be golden and cooked to the core but will still be a little soft.
- Drain the fries by shaking them over the fryer, and allow them to cool completely before the second fry.
- After or towards the end of the cooking of the meat, plunge the fries back into the frying bath heated to 350 F (180°C) for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the basket regularly so that the cooking is homogeneous.
- As soon as they are colored, drain them and place them in a bowl covered with absorbent paper. Season with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 450 F (220 ° C).
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the meat for about 8 minutes over medium to high heat, stirring regularly so that it browns evenly. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the fries at the bottom of a baking dish and cover with a layer of meat. Sprinkle with Gouda and bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
- Take the kapsalon out of the oven.
- Arrange cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on top. Drizzle with garlic sauce and sambal to taste.
- Serve hot.