A weekend in…
What is Brussels if not a culinary destination? A popular saying suggests that Belgian cuisine combines the quality of the French kitchen with the quantities of the German one. Expect plenty of tasty dishes that leave you satisfied for days. So, don’t lea
Unlike what its name suggests, Carbonade flamande (or, Flemish stew) is enjoyed in all corners of Belgium. It is a slow-cooked beef stew with dark beer, bay leaves and thyme. During the cooking process, you add a slice of bread with mustard or a slice of gingerbread to the mixture as well. Enjoy with a side of fries and mayonnaise. You can try this dish in a sit-down restaurant as well as in most ‘friteries’.
No marriage is as tasty as that between mussels and fries. The two seem made for each other and form a wildly popular dish in Belgian restaurants and taverns. Every year, between 25 and 30 tonnes are eaten in Belgium alone. The mussels are served from July until April, come in a typical, black mussel pot, and are traditionally cooked in a broth of celery and other vegetables. Many restaurants also serve varieties with white wine sauce, garlic, or ‘à la crème’.
Sure, you can eat steak with chips anywhere you go. Yet, most Belgians will tell you that this is the most Belgian dish of them all. Crispy fries, quality mayonnaise and béarnaise sauce (a sauce of egg yolks, butter, vinegar and herbs) form a perfect harmony on this plate. Béarnaise is in fact French but is considered by the Belgians to be their very own. Note that, in Belgium, they express the desired doneness of the meat by the French names: bleu (rare), saignant (medium-rare), à point (medium) and bien cuit (well done).
This velvety chicken-meatball-mushroom stew is a popular dish that many Belgians prepare themselves. It is usually served in a little puff pastry cup with – you guessed it – fries! While the dish is usually referred to as ‘vol-au-vent’, this is actually just the name of the pastry. The ragout inside is called ‘vidée’ or ‘fricassee’. This dish also goes great with potato croquettes – just in case you are tired of fries already.
Even on the other side of the world, waffles are referred to with the ‘Belgian’ prefix. And that’s despite the fact that Belgium counts numerous different kinds of waffles. The traditional ‘gaufre de Bruxelles’ is very big and light and usually served in tea rooms and restaurants with a scoop of ice cream. The waffle you might pick up at a stand in the city centre is likely a ‘gaufre de Liège’. This is heavier, sweeter and far more popular. If you’re up for a sugar rush, add some fruit, cream, Nutella, chocolate or other sweets to it.
To some, they are a delicacy, and to others the devil in disguise. Few vegetables are as polarising as these little green cabbages. In Belgium, however, people have been eating them ever since the 13th century, 600 years before the country was even founded. To date, they remain a strong symbol of the city. If you spot sprout stickers on buildings, mailboxes or benches in Brussels, they are likely from Sprout to be Brussels, a positive citizens’ initiative that was founded shortly after the terrorist attacks in Brussels in 2016.
Potatoes, vegetables and a bit of cream, all mashed together – that’s how simple a Belgian classic can be! Usually, this dish is prepared with carrots, but it can also be done with broccoli, cabbage, leeks or other vegetables. Belgians typically complement it with a sausage and a spoon of Belgian pickle sauce or mustard.
CHICON AU GRATIN
As white chicory is almost exclusively produced in Belgium and the Netherlands, both countries harvest them in high quantities and export them to all corners of the world. In Belgium, it is wrapped in ham, covered in a bechamel sauce, topped with grated cheese and baked in the oven. The subtle flavours of the sauce and the ham go great with the bitter, sharp taste of the vegetable, making it a simply amazing meal.
Belgian chocolates might be a tad pricy, but they are worth every penny once you discover their sweet fillings. As Forrest Gump used to say: “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna to get.” So, when at the chocolaterie, dare to make a selection of the chocolates that appeal most to you, without asking the salesman what’s inside. This way, eating them will prove to be a real adventure.