Julie Van Praet
What to eat in Belgium?
Updated: 18 hours ago
Belgium is the sum of its neighbours and inhabitants, and nothing reflects that better than its food. Historically Belgian cookery followed a Burgundian style, with tons of slow-cooked meat drowned in strong sauce, a fishing tradition stemming from its shared coastline with The Netherlands and hearty stews inspired by Eastern neighbours. Today Belgium reflects its rich history with a bustling future. Infusing new styles with old comfort.
Discover with us:
Salty and Savoury
Frites (and Frituur snacks)
Let’s leave the age-old discussion about the origin of fries behind, and focus on the dish itself. Every Belgian street corner boasts a “frituur” that serves plenty of underappreciated fried snacks. The art of the frite is taken quite seriously, as it is Belgium’s pride and joy. Frites are traditionally prepared in animal fat and come paired with a strong dollop of mayonnaise. The golden rule to finding the best pointy bag of fries is to look for a long line of people next to a shipping container underneath the town’s church bells. This technique is Belgian-approved!
The most famous Belgian variation of fries comes with mussels. These mussels aren’t from Brussels but are caught in the cold waters of the North Sea in springtime. Cooked in a big black kettle in many variations, ranging from mustard sauce to beer or just “au nature”. Moules-Frites are their own culture. Any true Moules-Frites enthusiast will teach you how to use the shells as tongs to grab the mussel’s innards.
Waterzooi is a classic stew originating from the city of Ghent. The dish is originally made with fish but is more commonly prepared with chicken these days. Like many Belgian dishes, this stew is filled with vegetables, potatoes, eggs, and a ton of cream and butter paired with some bread to sop up the liquid.
Crevettes/garnalen (croquettes or tomates)
The 500-year-old tradition of catching shrimp on horseback is still being practised on the Belgian coastline today. In West Flanders, old ladies line the streets in spring peeling stacks of crevettes. These shrimp are best to be enjoyed as croquettes or stuffed inside a tomato with cocktail sauce.
Cannibal (Filet Américain)
Filet Américain is a minced raw beef spread, the most common iteration to be found in Belgium is Toast Cannibal. This spread is to be eaten accompanied by fries or just plain on a baguette topped off with onions. A dish that is probably served for more adventurous foodies.
Eel in Green (Anguilles au vert)
This Belgian dish is composed of a smoked freshwater eel served in a herby green sauce. The sauce is mainly made up of spinach, sorrel, parsley, watercress and tarragon providing a strong flavour and obviously its distinctive green colour.
Gratin with Chicory
Another beloved classic is Chicory Gratin. This roulade is often eaten during the winter. It's classic, easy, and cheap.
This simple casserole is made with chicory rolls or endive rolls wrapped in ham and finished off with a generous amount of Gruyere cheese and white sauce.
Also known as Carbonnade a la Flamande, this stew is composed of Belgian ale and a ton of onions. Which in turn gives it a unique sweet and sour taste. The sauce gets slowly cooked with typical stew meat or organ meat and is a classic option for fries.
Often forgotten in the battle for Belgian sweets is speculoos. Crunchy, spicy and the official cookie of friendly folklore. Speculoos is traditionally made up of butter, brown sugar and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and can also be bought as a delicious spread.
The very first itineration of the Belgian waffle was in Liege and still holds up as the most popular one. The Liege waffle is thick and sticky containing chunks of pearl sugar and without any topics. Its Brusselian variation is fluffier and usually served with some whipped cream or fruits. The thing that makes Belgian waffles so unique is the use of brioche-inspired dough, instead of classic pancake dough.
The cherry on the Belgian cake is certainly made of chocolate. We can thank (Swiss) Jean Neuhaus for inventing the praline in Brussels and starting a true revolution in chocolate. Belgium prides itself on their unique production process, adhering to a minimum level of 34% cocoa. Its strong traditions and strict rules make it possible for many small independent chocolatiers to still operate in Belgium for centuries. For the true experience visit choco-story in Bruges or Brussels.
Beer beer and more beer
Beer must run through Belgian veins. Beer culture in Belgium is not only part of its living heritage, but also part of daily life and festivities. With almost 1,500 types of beer produced it’s quite an undertaking to taste all. For centuries Trappist communities in abbeys have been refining the art and offering space for more sustainable new flavours. When visiting Belgium certainly add a brewery to the itinerary or even one of many beer festivals on the agenda.
If beer is the living heritage of Belgium, jenever is its spirit. Jenever is the predecessor of gin and is uniquely produced in Belgium, with the beating heart in Hasselt. Go visit the ancient brick farm museum converted into a distillery in 1803.
Hopefully, we inspired your tastebuds to visit the many flavours of Belgium. Follow us on Instagram @thewalkingparrot to stay notified of new content!