Food? Well, Belgium is all about food! We might not have an extremely prestigious culinary tradition, but people who have visited Belgium all agree on the fact that we enjoy good products and that we are very much about the Burgundian lifestyle, i.e. ‘enjoyment of life, good food, and extravagant spectacle’. Here is my top five of what you have to try when you go to Belgium:
1)Beer: You simply can’t avoid it as it is everywhere in Belgium! A lot of our beers were elected as the best beers in the world and most people take that matter really seriously in Belgium. With about 800 standard beers (and more than 8000 when you count the one-off beers), it is hard to recommend any particular brand. You might want to try one of the world-famous Trappists (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort,…) produced by monks in their monasteries. If you like more fruity beer, I recommend that you try a Kriek (cherry beer) or a Pecheresse (peach beer). In any case, between the blonds, browns, whites, triples, stouts, pils,… you just have to make your pick; there definitely is something that will fit your taste!
2)Chocolate: Another source of national pride for the Belgians. The production of chocolate is older than the country itself and, just like beer, chocolate is all over the place in Belgium. Here is a good article that explains what is so special about Belgian chocolate:
My favorite brand is Galler, which is the official ‘chocolatier’ for the Royal family in Belgium. But really, the best chocolate is to be found in little artisan shops where people make their own chocolate from one generation to the next!
3)Fries: So let me get that straight, fries are not French but Belgian. The most popular type of food was indeed (most likely) invented on the river ‘La Meuse’ between Dinant and Liege in Southern Belgium. There are several theories explaining how the term ‘French fries’ was coined, but the most believable is that it was used by British and American soldiers who in Belgium during World War I because the official language of the Belgian army was French. Anyway, I have to say that I miss my Belgian fries a lot!
4)Waffles: Yeah, this is why most foreigners coming to Belgium gain about 40 pounds; after eating fries, chocolate and drinking beer they finish by getting a delicious waffle topped with whipped cream and hot chocolate. There are two main types of waffles. The first one is the Brussels waffel which is soft and light and the second one is the Liege waffel which is heavier more crusty. I have a preference for the Liege version (I might be biased since this is my hometown). My favorite way to eat it is to get it warm from the waffle maker and then to put hard chocolate sticks inside it so that they melt: delicious!
5) Regional dishes: Less famous outside of Belgium but as good as the rest is a series of regional dishes that are part of our traditions and folklore. Waterzooi, Liege meatballs, Flemish stoofkarbonaden,… Most of our dishes are popular and very unpretentious. However, it doesn’t mean that they are not of quality. Indeed, as I learned on Wikipedia: ‘It has been said that Belgium serves food of French quality in German quantities.’