Food à la Belge
So… after the previous articles, we’ve convinced you to visit Belgium. You’re there; you visit places, travel, meet people… What else is to do in this small country? Well… you could eat!
Belgian cuisine has for a long time been considered one of the best that Western Europe has to offer. Although not as developed and well known as the French one, as meaty as the German one and as pale as the Dutch one, the Belgian food can be considered a combination of all these. Some have described it as being “French food in German portions”.
The most known product of Belgium is frites (that’s “Fries” in French/Dutch). The label “French fries” has its origins in First World War Europe. At that time, American soldiers used to eat small potato pieces from their Belgian counterparts, but because the Belgians spoke French, they mistakenly dubbed them “French fries”. In fact, they are entirely Belgian and entirely… good.
The “secret” is that Belgian fries, as opposed to those made in other places around the world, are double-dipped in baths of hot oil, making them more consistent, but also fatter. The sauces also contribute to the “legend”: Andalouse, Cocktail, Bicky – all are a typical part of the Belgian fries meal. Good fried potatoes can be found all over Belgium, but one particularly famous place is in Brussels’ Place Jourdan – Maison Antoine. If you want to learn more about the origin and history of Belgian fries, visit Bruges’ Frites Museum; it’s an interesting experience and you also get a free sample with your entrance ticket.
Secondly, the country is full of seafood restaurants (obviously! it’s close to the North Sea). The ingredient that is common for most dishes are the oysters. Served with butter, in a soup or with tomato sauce, they are omnipresent in Belgian cuisine. In addition, snails have an important place as regards street food, with a large number of shops that sell freshly stewed snails directly from the pot.
Other dishes are “imported” from other cultures. The quiche is largely popular there, as it is in France. The most explicit description for this dish would be: potato and meat pie. Some have it with cream on the top; some do not. Pork spare ribs have become a big thing in Belgium in recent years, with restaurant chains such as Amadeus offering them à volonte for a fixed number of euros.
For desert, there is the waffle (or the gauffre, as it is locally called). This is basically liquid dough placed on a special grill (that also gives it that specific shape), after which the fried result is dipped in sugar, Nutella, whipped cream or other sweet things that you can think of. Waffles come in two types, Brussels’s and Liege’s waffle. The taste is the same; the only thing that differs is the shape – the form is squared and the latter is round.
Oddly enough, restaurant recommendations are not necessary for Belgium. As the biggest part of local cuisine is street food, “traditional” restaurants can be found around the corner. Areas with chique restaurants are the Saint Gerry Square, in Brussels, the center of Gent and the boardwalk lining the coast, in Oostende. It’s not just local food that you’ll find there, but also international cuisine. Enough talk! More eating! Bon appetit!