6 interesting facts about Belgian cuisine that you did not know
Situated between France, Germany and the Netherlands, Belgium has always experienced significant cultural influence from these countries. It is reflected in national cuisine.
But in Belgium there are absolutely amazing dishes and special culinary traditions – what makes this small country so incredibly attractive for gourmets from all over the world.
French fries were first cooked in Belgium
Belgium, french fries
Already in the middle of the XIX century, the process of cooking french fries was established by a local entrepreneur named Frite. Actually, this name has become an unofficial name for golden crispy slices of Fries, which in Flanders are everywhere dubbed Frits, and establishments where they are cooked – Friteria or frits.
Belgians love fries so much that they even opened a museum dedicated to it. It happened in Bruges in 2008. Also, the country annually celebrates the Week and the Day of French Fries on a grand scale, not to mention the fact that they came up with a special sandwich with this delicacy – the sandwich “mitrayet” – and about 30 sauces for it. In a word, this is real passion, and you can understand its origins only by tasting the popular local national food yourself.
Mussels go well with french fries
Mussels in Belgium
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Popular Belgian dishes along with Fries include mussels. By the way, they are served here without fail together – perhaps you can’t imagine the best combination!
Although mussels can be found in Flanders all year round, they are considered the most delicious “seasonally”, from September to April, when every self-respecting local restaurant offers dozens of cooking options for these shellfish on the menu. They are boiled in their own juice or white wine, with cream and without cream, stewed in beer, tomato puree with herbs – all methods are impossible to list. Mussels also like to bake: with garlic oil, mushrooms, cheese. You’ll just lick your fingers!
Another interesting detail – mussels go well with local beer. This fact is worth checking out first hand.
Not a single beer in the world is comparable to Belgian
Beer in Belgium
Surprisingly, in a small country they produce about 2500 sorts of beer, including the famous lambics. Stubborn statistics report that, on average, one Belgian drinks about 90 liters of beer per year. But the country exports even larger volumes – more than 60% of all its foam products.
However, this does not mean that the best Belgian beer can be tasted anywhere in the world. Just the opposite! Many original and unique varieties are prepared only by local craft breweries, whose “live” product does not withstand long-term storage, which means it is poured only in restaurants and pubs in Belgium. It is no coincidence that in 2016 beer was officially recognized by UNESCO as the intangible cultural heritage of Flanders.
Belgians – virtuosos of shrimp fishing
In Belgium, they love seafood and along with mussels they cook shrimp very tasty. Chefs masterfully make spicy sauces for main dishes and snacks from them. For example, tomatoes or croquettes with cream cheese and herbs stuffed with sweet shrimp are very popular among gourmets.
But tourists are attracted by these small seafood not only with exquisite taste. Every year, travelers come to Ostdyunkerk, a coastal city in the west of Belgium, who want to see the exotic craft with their own eyes. For more than five centuries, local fishermen have been catching shrimp in nets, sitting on the backs of horses. This extraordinary tradition has also been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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Not only beer is drunk in Belgium
Belgians appreciate not only good beer and wine. Another national drink here is considered jenever (jenever) – a special type of alcohol produced from malted cereals. The strength of the drink usually does not exceed 40 degrees – the locals calmly drink it in a pure, undiluted form or use it to mix cocktails.
Although in the neighboring Netherlands, Genever is also considered a national “chip”, in Belgium it is better to delicately keep silent. Otherwise, you run the risk of hearing an indignant story about how and when it was actually invented. But if this question really interests you, be sure to visit the Genevere Museum in Hasselt or visit the traditional Jeneverfeesten autumn festival, which takes place there.