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If there’s one overall impression I took away from my recent trip to Belgium, it’s that they like their food, and lots of it. They may be a small country but they sure have big appetites. It’s not just the quantity that they’re interested in, they’re also passionate about the quality of the cooking, hence why many people say Belgian’s cook with the finesse of the French, but serve German-sized portions! Not only does Belgium make world renowned beer and chocolate, they also produce a whole host of dishes synonymous with the country. You can easily eat your way around Belgium, so here are 8 foods you can try when you visit. (And the best thing about it is, you can wash it down with one of their incredible Belgian beers…)
1. Belgian Fries- Calling it a French fry in Belgium is complete and utter blasphemy, so if you want to avoid conflict, make sure you stick to ‘fry’, or ‘Belgian fry’. The Belgians are very protective and proud of the art of cooking the perfect fry- the perfect cut, the perfect oil temperature, the perfect potato, give a Belgian a minute to talk about the fry and they’ll be just as passionate as the Irish are with their potatoes… Apparently the definition of a Belgian fry is- freshly cut and irregularly shaped, fried twice, fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, at least 10mm thick, served in a paper cone. Oh, and they won’t understand why you would want to put vinegar on them…trust me, I was met with a very confused and blank stare.
2. Giant Cookies- On my visit to Dinant I took this photo of these giant cookies in the shape of Saint Nicholas. I thought they were those baked clay things you hang on the wall, but no, they are in fact giant edible cookies.
3. Sausage- The Belgian’s like their sausage, clearly! The Ardennes region is well known for its charcuterie- cured and prepared meat products including ham, sausage, terrines and patés.
4. Mussels- Mussels or ‘moules’ are an iconic food and they usually come in a big pot with…guess what…a side of fries. They come in a variety of ways- natural, in a garlic cream or the most popular way is ‘moules mariniere’ with white wine, shallots, parsley and butter.
5. Waffles– Here’s a bit of history for you- the waffle was introduced by Maurice Vermersch of Belgium and was served with cream and strawberries. The Waffle was a huge hit with the Americans after the 1964 New York World’s Fair and is still popular today, although in the states they often eat them with maple syrup. The Belgian waffle’s grid pattern is a lot higher, lighter and larger than other waffles and there are several types within Belgium including the Brussels waffle, Liege waffle and stroopwafel.
6. Belgian Chocolates- If there’s one food you can’t avoid in Belgium, its the Belgian chocolate. Belgian’s produce the best chocolate in the world, with pralines being the most popular choice. You’ll have little chance of curbing your sweet tooth with these gourmet chocolates, which are still usually handmade even today. You can take tours of chocolate shops and have a tasting session before you buy. Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year sold in over 2,130 belgian chocolate shops.
7. Friterie- Friteries are everywhere in Belgium and a must-try if you’re visiting. Friteries are fast food joints serving, you guessed it…fries and a variety of deep fried stuff. Things you can have deep fried include Frikandel, meatballs, cheese, croquettes and hamburgers. Food comes with a variety of sauces including ketchup, mayonnaise and tartar sauce.
8. Paté- You’ve probably heard of Brussels paté, a smooth pork liver paté, delicious on a bit of toasted bread. Paté is a paste made of ground meat and fats and popular patés include duck and pork. In Belgium it may be cooked in a crust like a pie, called pâté en croûte or baked in a terrine.