Frites and glitz

It’s the shin­ing star of fried starch, the culi­nary cap­i­tal of carbs – Kristie Kel­la­han checks out the birth­place of the french fry.

Sunday Star-Times - - Belguim -

French fries did not, in fact, orig­i­nate in France. Just ask the Bel­gians. They’ll tell you. His­to­ri­ans have traced the ori­gins of ‘‘les frites’’ to Bel­gium, where they say vil­lagers were get­ting their fry on as early as the 17th cen­tury.

At the Fri­et­mu­seum in Bruges, the self­pro­claimed world’s first mu­seum de­voted to fries, tough top­ics are tack­led head-on. What is the se­cret of mak­ing good fries? Where does the potato come from? Is it OK to mix tomato sauce with may­on­naise?

With more than 300 years to per­fect the hum­ble hot chip, Bel­gium reigns as the shin­ing star of fried starch, it’s the culi­nary cap­i­tal of carbs. Statis­ti­cians es­ti­mate the an­nual con­sump­tion of po­ta­toes at a whop­ping 85 ki­los per Bel­gian. The other de­li­cious food groups well-rep­re­sented in the na­tional diet – choco­late, waf­fles and beer – give some idea of the plea­sure-seek­ing pri­or­i­ties in this part of the world.

Wher­ever you go in Brus­sels, An­twerp or Bruges, no-frills fri­ter­ies can be found, serv­ing hot, fried potato sticks for a few eu­ros. Smoth­ered with truf­fle may­on­naise, doused in spicy an­dalouse sauce or squished in­side a sausage-filled baguette, they are the sta­ple food of choice from dawn ’til din­ner and be­yond.

Now, thanks to Miche­lin-starred chef Ser­gio Her­man, po­ta­toes are posh. The Dutch­man’s in­spi­ra­tion for his chain of up­scale cafes spe­cial­is­ing in gourmet fries was sim­ple. Since so many peo­ple al­ready love chow­ing down on hot chips, it was time to re­spect the crispy snack and el­e­vate it to a star­ring role.

Her­man’s bat­tle cry might be: Re­spect the potato! It took him 18 months to find the right va­ri­ety of spud, the Agria, a per­fect blend of crisp on the out­side and fluffy on the in­side.

His Frites Ate­lier chain opened in 2016 to in­stant suc­cess, and now boasts lo­ca­tions in The Nether­lands and Bel­gium, where the res­tau­rants in An­twerp and Ghent re­sem­ble trendy bars. With in­te­rior de­sign that leans heav­ily on white mar­ble, sub­way tiles and pops of bronze against char­coal paint, the cafes could be shops sell­ing $90 can­dles.

The sea­sonal menu fea­tures a chang­ing ros­ter of dishes, all built atop a pile of fries. Kim­chi-loaded, or bear­ing the weight of a hearty Flem­ish beef stew, or mixed with the flavours of In­done­sian sa­tay, the fries are al­ways the star. Some­thing tells me low-carb di­ets won’t be tak­ing off in Bel­gium any time soon. The writer trav­elled as a guest of Visit Flan­ders.

Tourists en­joy eat­ing frites in Bel­gium, above. The gourmet hot chips at Frites Ate­lier, left, come doused in many spe­cialty sauces, such as Flem­ish stew, Thai chicken and basil and parmi­giano.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.