Flanders is mostly known for fries, beer, and chocolate, but did you know there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in the city of Bruges than there are in the whole country of Denmark?¹ Fine dining set aside, Flemish fare is hearty, authentic, and made with fresh seasonal ingredients. Flanders is a foodie's dream!
Keep reading to see 8 Belgian foods to try!
1. Belgian Chocolate
The inventor of the praline
Jean Neuhaus revolutionized chocolate in Brussels and put Belgium on the map for chocolate by inventing pralines. These crafted treats are chocolate cups filled with flavored creams, fruit, and liquors and are designed to be eaten for pleasure.
Today, there are multiple chocolate shops you can visit in Belgium made by artisan chocolatiers that use at least 52% and often 70% pure cocoa solids¹. In some shops, you can see the chocolatiers hard at work and there are plenty of window displays to awe at.
Go to a chocolate museum
If you want to know more about the history of chocolate, you can visit a chocolate museum during your visit to Belgium. We went to the Choco-Story, the Chocolate Museum in Bruges which covers chocolate's origin from how it was introduced to Europe to Belgium's link to the trade. The best part is at the end you can sample all-you-can-eat chocolates and see a chocolate-making demonstration.
Get a Belgian Hot Chocolate
You can get a nice bowl of Belgian Hot Chocolate like the one pictured below and wow is it decadent! It's a delicious mix of hot milk and rich high-quality chocolate.
2. Belgian Waffles
There are two main types of waffles in Belgium - Brussels and Liège. They can be topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, chocolate, or fruit.
Brussels waffles are fluffy and airy and made from a thin yeasted batter. The thin, runny batter creates defined edges and a perfectly rectangular shape. Although light on the inside, the waffles are crunchy and crispy on the outside.
Liège waffles are unevenly shaped and made with a thicker dough that is sweetened with pearl sugar. While it bakes, the pearl sugar melts and gives the waffles a caramel flavor. These are the tastier ones in my opinion!
3. Frites - "French Fries"
Should we call them Belgian Fries?
A trip to Belgium means eating plenty of frites! Although we call them "French fries" the popular dish actually originates from Belgium. According to historians, during the late 16th century, poor villagers in Belgium would often eat small fried fish they caught in the river. When the river froze over in the winter, the villagers cut up potatoes and fried them up as a substitute.
During the First World War, some French-speaking Belgian soldiers offered fries to American soldiers. The American soldiers thought the Belgian soldiers were French, hence the name "French fries"³.
Don't forget the sauces!
Frites in Belgian are commonly served with the classic mayonnaise, but I suggest you try some of the other condiments as well.
Andalouse is a Belgian mayo-based condiment made with tomato and basil. I thought this was pretty good and it would probably be my sauce of choice behind ketchup.
If you like some spice in your life, Samourai is a taste-bud-tingling sauce with chili, tomato, and bell peppers. I wasn't a huge fan of it, although it was interesting, to say the least!
4. Flemish Beef Stew
A great pairing for crunchy golden frites is Flemish Beef Stew. The popular stew is made with tender delicious meat and often uses beer in the sauce⁴.
Try it on your fries
At Frites Atelier, you can get your fries topped with beef stew. The classic is made with braised beef in Petrus old brown beer, served with fresh garden cress and pickled mustard seeds. The stew was packed with flavor and surprisingly is a great topper for fries. Probably the best fries we had during our trip!
Speculoos is a spiced shortbread biscuit cookie. The main ingredients include flour, sugar, butter, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. The treat is popular right before St Nicholas' feast (December 6th) in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Northern France⁴.
Pictured below is a speculoos macchiato. If I saw speculoos flavored anything during our Belgium trip I was likely to order it! I saw speculoos flavored waffles, muffins, and marzipan.
Mussels are a Belgian staple since they are cheap and abundant. Mussels and other shellfish are in season between September and March¹. When you order mussels at a restaurant, expect a big pot of them and a side of frites.
Pictured below are the Mussels in "Style - De Vlaamsche Pot", a leek and cream sauce from De Vlaamshot Pot in Bruges. You can commonly order your mussels "natural" or in beer or wine sauce.
Waterzooi reminds me of comfort food, it's a classic Flemish stew made with fish or chicken. It is thickened with egg yolk and cream and has vegetables like carrots, leeks, and potatoes. Pictured below is the famous waterzooi from De Vlaamshot Pot in Bruges.
8. Shrimp Croquettes
Shrimp croquettes are found on the menu in many restaurants in Belgium. Traditional Belgium shrimp croquettes are made with North Sea shrimp, which are small and flavorful. They are encased in a lovely crispy golden crust.
Thanks for reading!
- The Maine Chick