Welcome to the tour of the foodie’s heaven.
As a small European country, Belgian cuisines are not very well-known abroad. For anyone who has the chance to visit Belgium, they will be thrilled by its wide variety of palatable cuisines. If you are like me who crave for sweet goodies, then you made the right choice to join this tour for its chocolates and waffles. When you walk on the street in Belgium, you will find lots of waffle shops. It is noteworthy that there is some confusion about waffles. In the Netherlands, they have the famous Dutch waffles (Stroopwafel, a wafer cookie with caramel filling). But the Belgian waffles are utterly different.
There are two main types of waffle in Belgium – The Brussels waffle and The Liège waffle. They are different in shape as the waffle irons used to make them are different. The Brussels waffle is rectangular and has deep holes, whereas the Liège waffle has rounded edges. Both are made with yeast batter, but egg white has incorporated in the batter to make the Brussels waffle. This foamy texture makes this type of waffle less sweet and fluffier. The Brussels waffle is always sprinkled with icing sugar. The Liège waffle’s batter is thicker and contains pearl sugar. When caramelised, the waffle becomes sweeter and more gooey. For the Brussels waffle, adding any toppings you like such as ice cream with drizzled chocolates or fruits with whipped cream can never go wrong. The Liège waffle, on the other hand, is normally consumed plain or with fruit toppings.
When I was in Bruges, I discovered a dessert shop called Go.fre, where it sells waffle-on-a-stick. This fresh twist on the classic waffles will add some fun in your gastronomic experience. You can customise the freshly baked waffle with an endless variety of toppings. If it’s too hard to choose, you can just take a ready-made one home.
I had my Belgian waffle in the Maison Dandoy Tea Room, located at Rue Charles Buls 14 in Brussels. This cosy tea room is near the Grand Place, and you can easily spot it as there is always a line outside the shop. Since I was in Brussels, I decided to try the Brussels waffle. I wanted to keep it simple, so I only had powdered sugar with one topping (fruit sauce). You can choose up to three out of nine toppings of the day if you’d like. The warm Brussels waffle was crispy outside and fluffy and creamy inside. The slightly sour fruit sauce complemented the light icing sugar made this combination a perfection.
Maison Dandoy offers more than just Belgian waffles. This family business was established in 1829 and is the oldest and most renowned bakery in Brussels. Its crunchy crispbread is said to help them survive during World War II. Still, nothing is better than its spiced speculoos baked using a special recipe passed down through three generations. It is an ideal souvenir for your family and friends.
What about chocolates? Godiva is the most internationally recognised chocolatier founded in Belgium. Still, there are more notable boutiques to discover such as Neuhaus, Mary and Elisabeth.
Are chocolates and waffles the only foods you can eat in Belgium? No, of course not!
The national dish of Belgium is Moules-Frites (Mussels with fries). You can find it in virtually everywhere in the country, and the mussels consumed in Belgium are mostly sourced from Zealand in the Netherlands. The most popular cooking style is the Moules Marinière, where the juicy and fresh mussels are prepared in a black steaming pot with white wine, shallot, parsley and butter. The fries always come as the side dish with mayonnaise as the dipping sauce. I had my first pot of mussels in Le Zinneke, a restaurant opened in northern Brussels (Schaerbeek) in 1956. Although it is quite far from the city centre, it is worth the visit if you’d like to have an authentic culinary adventure. This restaurant serves 69 traditional and novel mussels dishes along with other classic dishes such as Belgian meatballs and grey shrimp croquettes. To finish, I had organic homemade dark chocolate mousse as the happy ending.
Another national pride of Belgium is the Flemish beef stew. It is somewhat similar to the French beef bourguignon but is slowly simmered in Belgian beer instead of red wine. Mixing the beer with a few dollops of mustard and slices of bread give the sauce a thick texture with a sweet taste. The slow process allows the beef to soak in as much flavour as possible and melt away in your mouth.
Having enjoyed so much flavourful food, you must want to bring some home for your beloved ones. Why not take a walk at the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, Europe’s oldest glazed shopping arcade. There you can find an assortment of local products, and you can also find other delicacies from neighbouring countries. Even by window-shopping is a mouth-watering and joyous experience.
Last but not least, the other two signature foods in Belgium are the fries and the Merveilleux cake. Are French Fries really French? Some fries lovers may have known that Belgians and French have been fighting over the origin of fries for years. It is still a controversial topic but what is certain is that the world’s first and only Fries museum (Frietmuseum) was founded in Bruges.
For you to leave Belgium with no regrets, you may want to check out Maison Antonie, famous for its Belgian fries. For a more unique and romantic experience, you may want to enjoy a meal in the tram while exploring the city (Tram Experience). Or even enjoy fine dining in the sky (Dinner in the Sky).
Hope you enjoyed this tour of Belgian’s delicacy!
Till next time!