Belgium is a country where you eat well – not really in terms of healthy food, but in terms of pleasure. You can realize this during your first few minutes in Belgium – waffles smell all around the town, fries can be found on every corner, Belgian beer is being drunk in every pub and you cannot even escape the chocolate shops selling various chocolate pralines and other sweets. When it comes to real food in Belgium, Belgian cuisine is a fusion of regional specialties influenced by the neighboring countries such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Belgians love quality food and so you will find some very good restaurants in the large cities, and it is true that you will be nicely served in even basic brasseries (pubs). Last week I came up with some tips for Brussels’ Belgian restaurants and today I come with a is a list of some typical food in Belgium that you should try when visiting the country.
1. Belgian Beer
Belgian breweries produce more than 400 brands of beer and many of the bars you find in Belgian cities serve more than 20 different beers! The beer used to be brewed by monks in every village in medieval Belgium and some of those breweries date back to 11th century. Even nowadays some beers are still produced in Abbeys and six of them are even produced under precise production criteria. Those beers are called Trappists and are considered as the highest grade refreshments. The most known Trappist beers are Chimay, Westmalle, Rochefort or Westvleteren and you should definitely give them a try. Just don’t forget that Belgian beer is very strong compared to for example German or Czech beer! 😉
Mussels from the North Sea, cooked with vegetable and white wine broth and served in a huge pot and accompanied by fries, are very popular in Belgium so they are often considered as an unofficial national dish. Remember that you will get the best at the seaside and during the main season which starts somewhere in mid-summer and lasts for some months.
3. Belgian waffles
When wandering in the streets of Brussels’ city center, you will sooner or later bump into the waffles – just follow the smell! There are two basic types: Waffles from Liège are filled with sugar pieces that melt when served warm and so they have a bit caramel taste and then there are Waffles from Brussels that are much lighter and reminds classic waffles for breakfast. You can get waffles in a restaurant, café, but the best is to grab one on the street! They are served natural, with chocolate, fruits, and/or cream, or even ice cream – up to you! 🙂
4. Chicon gratin
Tasty chicory wrapped in ham and baked in the oven with béchamel sauce and grated cheese usually served with stoemp (mashed potatoes). This meal is usually prepared in the winter season, so you might not see it in the restaurants in other seasons.
Read next: Chicon au Gratin
Stoemp is a mixture of mashed potatoes and vegetables such as carrots, leek, spinach, or chicory, somewhere also with bacon. It is usually served with sausage, stewed meat or fish. In Belgium, you can also get a frozen stoemp and prepare it easily at home. It is a quick side dish when you are lazy to cook in the evenings. 😉
6. Fillet américain
This specialty is loved by many of the locals and expats living in Belgium. So-called Américain is simply raw minced beef meat, seasoned with some spices. It is either used as a spread on slices of bread or sandwich, or served in restaurants in a form of Steak Tartare, accompanied by fries and a small salad.
Do you like fries? If not vegetarian or vegan, you will love the Belgian ones even more! They are fried twice, and the beef or pork fat are used instead of oil, which makes them so special. (I actually used to like them until I did some research and realized how they are produced. It was quite a shock for me as a vegetarian.) Brussels’ streets are full of stands called “friterie” (in French) or “frit-kot” (in Flemish) that serve fries in a paper cone and you pick a sauce of your choice. You will find the best fries in town at Maison Antoine at Place Jourdan.
8. Belgian chocolate
A good quality chocolate has been produced in Belgium since the 17thcentury, but it was mainly the “pralines” that made Belgium known in the world. You will be amazed by the number of chocolate shops in the center of Brussels! Visit some of them and try various brands! Some of my favorite brands are Chocopolis, Galler, Jacques, Neuhaus, Rendez-vous chocolat or Godiva.
9. Sole meunière
This is definitely the most frequently cooked fish dish by the majority of Belgians. The Sole is floured and then prepared in a pan with a bit of butter and lemon, served with freshly chopped parsley and potatoes or fries.
This dish is originally from France, although very popular in Belgium too. Chicken and mushroom cooked with bechamel sauce are served in a small hollow case made from puff pastry, usually accompanied by salad and fries.
11. Carbonnades Flammandes / Stoverij
The locals love this typical Belgian beer dish. Stewed beef with onions in dark beer and mustard, seasoned with thyme and bay leaves is usually served with fries or boiled potatoes.
Famous gingerbread cookies are often served with tea or coffee, but they are also used in the preparation of some desserts such as Tiramisu Speculoos or cheesecake speculoos (oh God!). Then you might see some artisanal shops like Dandoy selling delicious cookies, which are a bit expensive but taste heavenly.
13. Boulettes à la liègeoise
Originally from the province of Liège, these mixed meatballs with sour-sweet sauce (onion, vinegar, syrup from Liège and bay leaf) are often served with mashed potatoes or fries, but the recipe actually differs region from region.
14. Tarte au riz / Rijstevlaai
Pie with rice pudding filling, originally also from the province of Liège, but can be found in almost every bakery in Brussels.
Originally from Ghent, waterzooi is a stewed chicken/fish with vegetables in egg yolk, cream and broth sauce that used to be a favorite dish of the big emperor, Charles V.
As you can see, most of the typical food in Belgium is with meat so I have not tried it, although I see how much my Belgian friends and locals love to eat these specialties. If you get to visit Belgium, you have now the idea of what the food here is alike and you may put some of those on your bucket list. Let me know how was your experience with the food in Belgium and is there something else you would recommend?
P.S. You can always pin this post for later!