People around the world have certain foods they turn to after a late night spent carousing, a marathon study session, or a 12-hour shift. Many of these snacks feature a colossal cultural melting-pot of calories, and the Netherlands’ kapsalon is no different. The invention of a Cape Verdean hairdresser, the kapsalon consists of an aluminum container piled with fries, shawarma meat, Gouda cheese, and, after spending a stint under the broiler, a sprinkling of salad and a squirt of garlic sauce and sambal.
The dish was born in the multiethnic neighborhood of Delfshaven in Rotterdam, when hairdresser Nathaniël Gomes asked the nearby snack bar, El Aviva, to assemble the concoction. Seeing the poutine-like pile intrigued eaters, and, needing a name for the outlandish snack, they began referring to it as the kapsalon or “hairdresser” in Dutch. The name fit perfectly, and a shawarma star was born. Today, the kapsalon can be found in locations across the globe featuring different versions such as fish, chicken, falafel, and even beef bulgogi-based compilations.
According to historian Paul van de Laar, the dish is an important part of Rotterdam’s contemporary culinary heritage and an example of how street food can be a prime breeding ground for fusion dishes. In many cases, immigrants are among the chief innovators, as they often combine flavors from home with ingredients they are encountering for the first time. Just like trying out a new haircut, a little risk can reap remarkable rewards.
Where to Try It
El Aviva ShoarmaSchiedamseweg 22a, Rotterdam AB, 3025, Netherlands
The birthplace of the kapsalon.
Mix R ChickenNieuwe Binnenweg 426, Rotterdam, 3023 , Netherlands