Top 20 Belgian Foods (With Photos!)
Fries, beer, and chocolate… hardly a trio of foods that would cut the front page of Weight Watchers magazine. Though undeniably at the forefront of the public culinary eye, Belgian cuisine boasts a wide array of savory experiences that is best summed up by the phrase “German quantity mixed with French quality”.
In the recent past, doubts were raised aplenty on the country´s national integrity, most notably highlighted by the socio-cultural divergences between Wallonia (south) and Flanders (north). And in a country where the art of diplomatic consensus is widely acclaimed, it seems like food and beverage are anything but a cause for divide.
Here are the top 20 foods from Belgium. C´est parti !
1. Belgian Fries
Some things are nonsensical. Then we head up this article without an honorable mention about what Belgians arguably pride themselves most on (besides beer and chocolate, evidently). Whilst the term “French fries” has somehow established itself in culinary jargon worldwide, it seems even the French would have to admit that, in truth, nothing beats the Belgian variant.
What makes the Belgian “chip” so unique? Therein lies a secret the world may never come to uncover. What we do know is that, for starters, the potatoes are fried twice in strict, deliberate delays. The first fry gives the fries their tenderness. The second phase, right before serving, creates the golden-brown color and unmistakable crispiness. Overall, it is fair to say that the Belgian fry is an unparalleled sidekick to almost any Belgian dish.
In 2016, Belgian beer was added to UNESCO´s list of intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Gueuze, a lambic beer characteristically dry and cidery, provides the base of a dish best suited for wintery conditions. The braised rabbit is topped with celery root, onion, and whole grain mustard, adding to the sense of seasonal belonging. Most relevant side dishes include pureed potatoes or crusty bread.
Traditionally regarded as a side kick to fried mince, fried boudin, grilled bacon, or even entrecote, Stoemp is the Brussels version of the classic Dutch stamppot dish. A perfect blend of mashed potatoes and other root vegetables, to which cream, onion (or shallot), herbs, spices, and bacon form a perfect addition.
4. Boulets à la Liégeoise
The boulet à la liégeoise is the ideal representation of how certain recipes can vary even from one household to another. The base of this specialty nevertheless consists of one or two big meatballs assembled from a subtle combination of pork, veal, minced meat, breadcrumbs, parsley, and onions. Chances are that in some establishments in Liège, the dish´s city of origin, it may well be the only specialty you´ll find, thereby doing its culinary standing justice.
Traditionally served with fries, mayonnaise, and mildly seasoned crudités, the meat is simmered in a sweet and sour sauce made from vinegar, onions, brown sugar, Liège syrup, and raisins.
5. Carbonnade Flammande
A Flemish stew made of beef or pork seasoned with thyme, bay leaves, mustard, and, evidently, Belgian beer. The choice of beer is primordial, as you´ll be looking to extract that bitter-sour flavor. Oud bruin (Old Brown Beer), or Flanders red therefore forms a perfect match. As accompaniments, you´ll want to stick to the aforementioned stoemp, Belgian fries, or boiled potatoes.
Looking for further ways to overcome those cold winter spikes? Bittersweet bliss awaits with this power-duo of braised endives rolled up in sweet, baked slices of ham, all covered with a Mornay sauce and some grated cheese (preferably Gruyère).
Having originated in the Flemish town of Ghent in the 16th century, the Waterzooi has stood the test of time in indisputable fashion. Though traditionally served with white fish, the chicken variant continuously appears to attract more advocates. Potatoes and a thick slice of bread are well regarded as a bonus to the actual base of vegetables and the soup´s preeminent creaminess.
Steamed, boiled, stir fried, grilled, roasted, pickled, sautéd: an all-rounder in its purest sense. The variety of ways of cooking the sprout is furthermore boosted by the range of seemingly limitless accompaniments that harmonize its nutty, bitter flavor. These may include pork grattons, mustard, cheese and ham, chestnut, sweet and sour sauce, and so on. Belgians picked their poison ever since these buds were cultivated in and around Belgian territory as far back as the 5th century.
9. Moules Frites
Not to be confused with the “Muscles from Brussels”, the moules-frites is an almost inescapable classic around the Flemish coast. Served in various flavors, the most common variations include moules natures (steamed with celery, butter, and leeks), moules marinières (shallots, parsley, butter, and white wine) moules à la crème (thickened with cream and flour) or even, what else, moules à la bière.
Ground beef that is in many ways similar to the French tartare. The Belgian Américain differs mainly in that mayonnaise is applied as a main ingredient, giving the whole dish a pastier texture. To spice things up a little, finely chopped onions, Worcester sauce, capers, and, most important of all, Belgian pickles are added to the mix. As one might come to expect, a decent portion of Belgian fries round off the dish.
The mitraillette, “submachine gun”, most certainly doesn´t make it on the list of top 20 most first-date-friendly foods. Popular among students, the mitraillette is, quite bluntly, a type of sandwich stacked with fries and fried meats. The latter vary from steaks to sausages and hamburgers, depending on the friterie and/or café you’re in, though most establishments have everything on offer. Add popular sauces, the likes of andalouse, mayonnaise, garlic, or curry ketchup, and you´ll be sure to postpone that well-intended gym visit of yours for a further 24 hours.
12. Bicky Burger
Meat lovers behold. Cometh the deep-fried patty made from chicken, pork, and horse meat. In truth, the Bicky Burger originated in the Netherlands. Yet, since the 1980s, Belgians have ostensibly grown fonder of it than their Dutch counterparts. The widely acclaimed Bicky sauce is really what it all comes down to: an exquisite, somewhat pornesque fusion of mustard, cucumbers, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower. Additional fillings include pickles, fried onions, and hot sauce if required.
13. Croquettes aux Crevettes Grises
The Crangon Crangon. What at first may sound like a goofy, sub-plot character from Star Trek is more commonly referred to as bay shrimp, sand shrimp or, according to the French translation, grey shrimp. It´s particularity lies in the fact that it is fished mainly in the southern North Sea. Hence, you will hardly find a restaurant menu along the Flemish coast on which the croquette aux crevettes grises does not prominently figure.
Served either as a main dish with fries or as an appetizer, the tomate crevette offers a refreshing alternative to the more substantial dishes presented thus far. The uncooked tomato is jammed with a combination of shrimps (grey…obviously), mayonnaise, parsley, lemon juice, and tomato juice. The tomato top merely acts as a decorative element. Place on a bed of fresh salad greens and voilà!
15. Liège Waffle
The Liège waffle. An unequaled mesh of soft interior and crispy exterior rendered even more irresistible by its caramelized sugar grains. Characteristically thick, it´s fluffy texture stands in impeccable contrast to its crackling outside. Along with the boulets, it’s an absolute must when in Liège.
16. Brussels Waffle
The Brussels waffle doesn’t merely differ in looks from the Liège edition. Uniformly rectangular with deeper holes and smoother edges, the former is also lighter on the taste buds due to the use of egg white and thin, yeast-leavened batter in its arrangement. The common addition of whipped cream or ice-cream may, however, temper the well-intended, initial lightness.
17. Le Merveilleux
In a country that is widely regarded as the heart of chocolate-related affairs worldwide, it doesn´t get much better than this. The merveilleux is a cake that has found its way even to some US cities. Chocolate shavings on a bed of whipped cream provide the topping for a base of double-layered, light meringues. Airy in its taste, a candied cherry may be added primarily for decorative purposes.
A cone-shaped/nose-shaped sweetmeat from Ghent that gives the expression “hitting the sweet spot” a whole new definition. Purple and raspberry-flavored in its origin, the gelatinous, gooey insides and somewhat harder outside now come in different colors and tastes. Mostly unknown to the non-Belgian public, the Cuberon, a syrup unexpectedly turned candy overnight in a failed pharmacist experiment 150 years ago, awakens a sense of nostalgia and childhood memories in many nationals.
19. Pain Cramique
Here, then, is a variant of the rich and tender brioche, stuffed with raisins and truly national in character. It is mainly consumed at breakfast and/or during tea-time. Popular spreads include butter, jam, cocoa, and even foie gras, in which case the slices are lightly toasted. The pain cramique is a true favorite in either Flemish, Walloon, or Brussels households. Vive la Belgique!
20. Café Liégeois
In 1914, the Battle of Liège took place, which is believed to have temporarily halted German troops advancing into France. In an act of gratitude and honor toward the liégeois resilience that had allowed the French army to re-organize, what was formerly known as the café viennois was re-baptized café liégeois. Made from lightly sweetened coffee, whipped cream, and mocha ice-cream, look no further for a textbook example of the term “calory bomb”! Cruel, yet so enticing.
Related: Most Popular Belgian Desserts