Now let’s get one thing straight. You are not going to lose weight when travelling to Belgium if you indulge in their local specialities. Belgian foods are heavy, rich and full of carbs. Most are sugary, fried on doused in beer. So really not the healthiest cuisine we have come across on our adventures, but it is pretty tasty. Regardless, as food is a major part of our travelling experience we had to try the top 6 Belgian foods during our visit.
Yes, Belgium is responsible for creating French fries! It was actually the Americans who starting calling Belgian fries French fries during World War II. They were in Belgium eating fries, heard people speaking French, put two and two together and assumed they were eating French fries! You will find shops and street stalls selling frites everywhere and most have about 15 sauces to choose from. Served in a cone to ensure the last ones you devour are still hot.
If you are travelling in Brussels one of the best friteries to purchase your French fries is Friterie Du Cafe Georgette where they fry their chips in beef fat!
In Belgium they are serious about their waffles. Due to tourism waffles have changed and not for the greater good according to the locals. So you need to be sure you get the right waffles for the authentic experience. There are two main types of waffles you will come across – the Liege waffle which is rounded and the rectangular Brussels waffle. The Liege waffle is dense, buttery, doughy and traditionally only served with a dusting of icing sugar. The Brussels waffle is much lighter and crispier and is often served with toppings such as chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream!
If you are sightseeing in Bruges, make sure you purchase your waffle from the truck opposite the Stadhuis as they are freshly made rather than heated up like most other venues. If you ask for chocolate on your waffle, be prepared for it to be drowned in thick, warm liquid chocolate. I suggest you request just a light cover!
Mussels or Moules are very popular in Belgium, particularly around the Flemish coast as they are considered the national dish. They’re most commonly cooked in white wine, shallots and butter, with a garnish of parsley called la marinere, and served with a side of fries. They are also available cooked in beer! If you are keen to try them, the season for mussels is from September to February.
In Brussels the most famous place to enjoy a bowl of mussels is Chez Leon on Beenhouwersstraat.
Chocolate is one of the hardest Belgian foods to resist when travelling around the country, particularly due to the shop’s amazing window displays. There are more than 2,000 chocolatiers in Belgium so you can imagine it is pretty hard to avoid. What makes the chocolate so tasty? By law there has to be a minimum 35% pure cocoa in the chocolate and artificial, vegetable or palm oil based fats are banned.
If you are wanting a sweet chocolate treat, avoid the chocolate shops you may have seen in the airport or train station as they are often factory made. In Brussels visit Mary’s or Elizabeth, and in Bruges head to Chocolaterie De Burg where the chocolates are handmade and sold by the third-generation owner.
One of the best known treats in Ghent is the ‘little nose’ sweets called Cuberdons. You are either going to love or hate these guys as they are extremely sweet (and expensive!). Filled with sugar, Arabic gum and raspberry syrup they are firm on the outside and squishy on the inside.
You can purchase these outside of Ghent, but they have a short shelf life so are best purchased fresh in the street of the originating city. At the Groentenmarkt you will see the city’s two authorised sellers of Cuberdons. Be sure to purchase them from the stall on the right as you look at them, as these are handmade whereas the decorative stall on the left are made in the factory.
Carbonnade beef and beer stew
The Flemish dish carbonnade á la flamade is a popular beef stew that is made by cooking beef and onions in Belgian beer until tender. The result is a rich, sweet-sour, dark gravy and succulent meat typically served with potatoes or, you guessed it, fries.
You will find it on the menu everywhere in Belgium and not only at restaurants, but also friteries.
While not a food, it is hard not to talk about beer when it comes to filling our bellies with delicious things. There are over 180 breweries in Belgium and they certainly know their stuff. Chris and I are non-drinkers, but if you do enjoy a drop you need to join the locals in trying out a few beers. There are plenty of beer tours giving visitors opportunities to sample some of the many beers available, and several beer museums worth a look.
If you are in Bruges, stop in at the Beer Museum to get a little piece of history and enjoy the lovely bar upstairs. While in Brussels visit Delirium which holds the world record for the most beers with over 3000 available. For a unique experience visit De Dulle Griet in Ghent where you can order the Max beer in exchange for your shoe! Believe it or not, the glass is that expensive they make you hand over your shoe as security.
Expanding waist line?
Typical Belgian foods are not light and healthy by any means, but you will be happy to know you can scope out some healthy places to get you back on track. If you are travelling on a budget or short of time, you will come across the Exki food-stores everywhere which offer great salads, soups, warm meals and snacks that are predominately healthy.