Eating in Belgium

By Nomadic Matt | Published October 26th, 2009

Belgium isn’t considered a big tourist destination. In fact, I bet most people couldn’t even locate it on a map or name another city in it besides Brussels. But, mention Belgium, and most people will be able to at least tell that the beer is good, the chocolate amazing, the waffles delicious, and the frites amazing. Despite its small size, Belgium holds its own in the culinary world and, while the food may not be the healthiest in the world to, it is certainly the delicious:

Belgium BeerBeer
Belgium is probably most famous for its beer. It has been brewing beer since the Middle Ages and there are approximately 125 breweries in the country. These 125 breweries produce about 800 standard beers. When special one-off beers are included, the total number of Belgian beers jumps to about 8,700! Belgium is clearly for beer lovers.

One of the most famous beers here is the Trappist beers. These are beers brewed in a Trappist monastery where the monks a role in its production and policies and the profits from the sale must be used to support the monastery. Only seven monasteries currently meet these qualifications, six of which are in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.

Another main beer is Lambic beer, a wheat beer brewed in the southwest of Brussels by spontaneous fermentation. Lambic’s fermentation is produced by exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria in the air. This is the type of beer brewed in Brussels’ only remaining brewery. These beers can be aged for up to three years! I found it very dry, acidic and sour. An acquired taste maybe?

Chocolate in BelgiumChocolate
Belgium chocolate is supposed to be the best in the world. I’m not a chocolate expert but I do know that I almost ate all the free samples at the Chocolate museum. Belgian chocolate has a high quality of ingredients and producers strongly adherence to Old World manufacturing techniques. When the EU allowed manufacturers to use a percentage of vegetable oil in chocolate productions, Belgiums balked- only 100% cocoa butter for them!

Belgian chocolate itself has been popular since the 18th century, but increased its popularity during the 20th century when prices dropped and it became more affordable. The most popular variety here are chocolate pralines that can be filled with a variety of flavored creams, alcohol, fruit or more chocolate. You’ll find a chocolate store on every corner in Belgium. The expensive stores Like Neuhaus and Godiva are worth the money.

Chocolate in BelgiumWaffles
Belgian waffles, those large, light, and thick waffles, are famous worldwide. However, the Belgium waffle is really the Brussels waffle. Most waffles in Belgium (indeed in most of the low countries) are large and flat. It was introduced by Maurice Vermersch in the ’60s. Originally called Brussels waffles, Vermersch decided to change the name upon observing the poor geographical skills of Americans. Belgian waffles were popularized in the United States during the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

While in Belgium, I noticed the majority of “waffle shops” had the popularized version closest to the tourist areas where in the local areas there was more of a mix and more often sold as a pastry instead of a breakfast food. I’m too used to eating it for breakfast though. For me, they are best served with lots of powered sugar, strawberries, and maple syrup. However, you cna get hem with bananas, ice cream, chocolate, nutella- whatever your heart desires.

Frites in BelgiumFrites
Frites, or french fries, is an on the go specialty in many parts of Europe. In Belgium, it is an art. Everywhere you go you see a frite seller and locals walking around with a cone of frites and some mayo. (Probably walking to burn off the calories!) Everyone claims to know the best frite place in “insert town name here”. I found the ones in the center of Brussels and Brugge to be average. A friend did take me to a place called “Maison Antione” in Place Jordan. I thought they were very good and the long lines seemed a testament to that. I mean any place that gets you to wait 30 minutes for fries must be good. And when you eat the frites, make sure you eat them with mayo. It’s delicious.

Belgium may be small but it packs a powerful culinary punch. There’s nothing better than sitting outside on a nice day with a cone of frites in one hand and hearty Belgium beer in the other. None of the food will ever be considered “healthy” but it will always be considered mouth watering delicious.

comments 22 Comments

Ah.. Love the food post. :) What a great combination – beer, chocolate, waffle and frites.. I’m hungry now!

Mmm, I haven’t had lunch yet and you have made me hungry. I just love fries with mayo. They really have made it an art in Belgium. I remember that I just had to have mussels in Brussels. They gave me such a big order that I couldn’t touch mussels for a year. I didn’t have to eat them all, but I did. I just kept stuffing myself until I couldn’t move. And on top of that they came with frites and mayo and yep, I ate them too:)
I agree, anytime there is a long line…the food must be great.

Hey there! Enjoyed the tasty post about eating in Belgium, one of my favorite countries. Please check out my Belgian chocolate article, however, as I must protest your inclusion of Godiva on your list. ;)
Cheers!

NomadicMatt

We all have different taste! Give me those cream filled godiva treats anyday…

Fred

I must agree Godiva stuff is crap and can bought anywhere in Europe. There are some awesome artisan chocolatiers that produce amazing creations that are far more inventive and less sweet.

The name escapes me but there is a great one in Brugge that has an amazing red wine vinegar filling in one of theirs they had a massive chocolate monster in the window too. We bought a load to bring home but ate them all on the ferry!

Fred

The Chocolate shop is on Simon Stevinplein. It’s called The Chocolate Line and is really amazing.

I so did not want to see this, when I’m THIS hungry :)

Those frites look deeeeeelicious!

Hi Matt, I couldn’t stop thinking about this post after retweeting it earlier, so tonight I had to get two of my Belgian faves from your list – frites from Pommes Frites and chocolate from Leonidas in NYC…serious YUM! Thanks for the inspiration!

Mara

My main memory of Belgium (from my college days looooooong ago): drinking lots and lots of amazing peach lambic at the hostel in Bruges, eating way to many of those amazing frites afterward, and suffering mightly for it the next day when I discovered that the (outdoor) shower only had lukewarm water (it was January).

But as your post points out, really, it was worth it.

It’s so hard to decide which food/drink I enjoyed most when I was in Brussels last year. The chocolate truffles were awesome, the fries were fattening in the best way possible, the waffles kept me warm on cold December days, and the super strong beer made for fun nights.

Yum! I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing food in Belgium. In fact, I bought a box of chocolates to last me through a few days, and instead I ate nearly the entire box waiting for the train. And, truth be told, I’m not much of a chocolate lover!!

I LOVED Belgium, though beer and chocolate are my two vices. The architecture in Brussels is actually really cool too.

Hey Matt,
nice article
You made a mistake though,
“Maison Antione” is Maison Antoine

Have fun in the south

Lambic beers are definitely a taste worth acquiring, I didn’t like them that much at first but after trying several they’re now one of my favourites

In my opinion, Belgium can definitely hold its own against France in terms of food. Not only are their specialties beyond delicious, but the food we associate with France (bread, cheese, pastries) can be found all over Brussels and are every bit as good as they are in Paris.

NomadicMatt

I agree but I prefer food in france :)

Laura

you forgot about moules!! the best mussels I’ve ever had!

Mmmm Belgian waffles! I just tried a Lambic beer from Bevmo and it had cherries added, which gave it a nice taste (and I don’t even like beer)!

Fred

Belgian food is about so much more and can be very very reasonable especially away from the tourist centre of Brussles, Brugges, or Ghent. Some great dishes using the beer to cook in and I remember having an amazing dish of Eels in a green sauce. The bar snacks are great too, one bar in Tournai had the best deviled kidney wow!

I do think Belgium and it’s food is under rated but lets keep it that way because I love it.

Don’t forget the music too… I’m a Belgian music bore.

Sabrina

In addition to the frites, chocolate, beer and moules, Belgians have another weird specialty- ham and jam sandwiches and cheese and mustard sandwiches- try it, it’s not THAT bad… and if you ever go there again, try the stropwaffels from supermarkets, they’re thin waffels with caramel syrup, they literally MELT in your mouth, and if you haven’t tried it yet, Kriek is the most delicious non-beer-tasting beer :) it’s made with cherry juice :)

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audrey

belgian frites and waffles are the best!!! no doubt makes me hungry for frites!!!

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