Belgian cuisine is rooted in the distant Middle Ages. National culinary traditions were formed under the influence of three powerful pillars – French, German and Dutch cuisines. Home cooking is characterized by simple cooking technology, the most affordable set of products. The restaurants serve more refined treats – this is influenced by French cuisine. National Belgian cuisine is multifaceted and able to conquer the discerning gourmet. Not surprisingly, culinary tours to Belgium are very popular among tourists. During such a trip, you can visit interesting gastronomic places and try the best dishes of the country.
The nature of national cuisine
Locals prefer to cook with seasonal and regional products. For this reason, the difference in culinary preferences of the inhabitants of the southern and northern parts of Belgium is especially felt. In cities located on the coast, a menu of fish and seafood predominates, a variety of vegetables are prepared for garnish, including the famous Brussels sprouts. In the mountainous regions (Ardennes) with special skill they cook game, meat treats.
A light snack for the average Belgian – french fries and spicy mussels with a mug of beer brewed according to an exclusive recipe. And the traditional festive table is buried in an abundance of culinary masterpieces – blood sausages, pork head and ears, seafood, all kinds of sweets, bread, fruits. The inhabitants of Belgium seem to be competing – who will be able to cook more dishes. Served and filled table of a modern Belgian family resembles a still life of the 17th century.
Interesting fact! Tourists love the national Belgian cuisine for the varied menu and for the huge portions in local restaurants.
Local culinary experts value customer above all and adhere to classical cooking techniques. New-fashioned experiments are rarely used here, which is probably why restaurants have no excessively high prices. In Belgium, there is one simple rule – if a cook cooks tasteless, his restaurant will go bankrupt because the competition is too high.
Good to know! Belgian restaurants are appreciated all over the world and many are marked with Michelin stars. According to statistics, there are 2 three-star, 3 two-star and 15 one-star restaurants per 1 million inhabitants.
We can say that in Belgian cuisine there are few first courses, but they all differ in exquisite taste, an original combination of ingredients. The national menu is dominated by thick creamy cream soups. However, there are traditional first courses, such as pea soup or vegetable stew. Locals are not indifferent to beer and even add it to soups; light soups with vegetables – asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green beans and mushrooms are also popular.
A national treat of Belgian cuisine, the name of which comes from two Dutch words – water and boil. This is a traditional Flanders chowder; it is also called the Ghent Waters – by region of origin.
The classic recipe involves the use of fish as the main ingredient, however, when the Ghent ponds became too dirty, the fish disappeared into them. After that, chicken began to be used for cooking. In addition, carrots, leeks, celery root, potatoes, and a whole bunch of spices are added to the soup. The peculiarity of the soup is that vegetables and meat (or fish) are cooked separately and then combined. The broth is seasoned with whipped egg yolks with cream, sometimes bread crumbs are used.
It tastes best with toasted white bread and butter.
This national recipe is original and very appetizing, for sure all family members will want to try it. It is served with rye bread and chopped greens are separately placed on the table.
The peculiarity of the soup in the preparation of mushrooms is that they are washed, scrolled in a meat grinder and stewed with the addition of oil and onions (it is grated). After 10-12 minutes, add flour and broth (in the original recipe, bone is used), season with spices to taste. At the end of cooking, cream is poured into the soup and decorated with boiled eggs.
Salads and snacks
The Belgian cuisine is rich in vegetables, they are prepared in a variety of ways. Numerous Belgian markets sell a huge amount of fresh vegetables grown in the country. Here you can try different varieties of celery, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, kohlrabi, radishes, peas, asparagus, sorrel, parsnip, carrots, beans and mushrooms.
The main delicacy of the national Belgian cuisine is young hop shoots harvested in spring. Be sure to try them at the restaurant. Also beloved by many locals, the national treat is asparagus grown in Mechelen (Antwerp province).
An original salad that you can try in any restaurant and then cook at home. A hearty treat of young potatoes, green beans, onions, ham and apples. Potatoes are cut in portions and boiled until tender. For 5-7 minutes, put a colander in a pan with potatoes and put beans in it – it is steamed. Chop the onion, cut the ham larger, fry, add apples and a little vinegar. All components are mixed and seasoned with olive oil.
The national cuisine of Belgium is impossible to imagine without seafood. According to the Belgians – the perfect combination of tastes – french fries and a plate with mussels. It is impossible to come to Belgium and not try this culinary masterpiece.
The most popular recipe for mussels is stewed seafood with a variety of seasonings and spices. Cost – from 10 to 15 euros.
Useful information! In local restaurants, mussels are served in a pan, this amount is enough for two people.
In Belgian cuisine, there are a huge number of mussel recipes – you can try seafood with the addition of white wine, lemon sauce, vegetables.
Oysters are another popular, you can say a national product, it is served in every restaurant. The cost is about 20 euros for 6 pieces. Typically, a serving consists of 12 or 6 oysters.
You can also buy seafood in shops on the streets, while their cost is half as much – 10 euros.
An abundance of Belgian cuisine is impossible to imagine without fish and meat treats. The national menu offers a wide selection of dishes from marine varieties of fish, pork, beef, rabbit and game. Thick sauces and a side dish of potatoes or vegetables are prepared separately for the main course. Just imagine a pheasant flaunting in the center of the table, numerous varieties of ham, beef rolls. The real culinary glory of Belgium was brought by beef stewed in locally produced dark beer. The dish is called Carbonade.
Belgians respect fish, the king of national cuisine is eel. The most popular recipe is eel in greens. Even the paste is prepared from the meat of this fish.
Another popular variety of fish is herring, it is prepared in many ways. Be sure to try the Flemish cutlets, which are prepared from herring minced meat with the addition of onions, garlic, pulp of white bread, eggs and capers.
In Belgium, this dish is always served with the sort of beer that was used for preparation. Beef stew in a bowl with a thick bottom. It is believed that the next day it becomes even tastier and richer. The traditional side dish for meat is any kind of potato and vegetables.
Interesting to know! In Belgian cuisine, special attention is paid to the reconstruction of old recipes, which is exactly what Flemish goulash is. It was served in Belgian taverns to noble persons and nobles.
The spicy feature of the dish is thick sauce. It is prepared as follows – 15 minutes before being cooked, the meat pulp greased with mustard is spread on the meat. A few minutes before cooking, the ingredients are mixed, and the bread is evenly distributed in the broth and beer sauce.
Sweet dishes are also not deprived of attention in the Belgian cuisine. There are pies, tarts, brioche, muffins, gingerbread cookies and, of course, waffles and chocolate.
The dessert turns out to be sweet and sour and fragrant, children and adults will want to try it with pleasure. For cooking, varieties of apples with a slight acidity are used, they are peeled from peel and seeds. The apple is stuffed with a mixture of jam and cinnamon. Roll out the puff pastry, cut into squares and wrap the fruit. Put envelopes on a baking sheet, grease with an egg and bake until the dough is lightly browned. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Wafers gained worldwide popularity after the Expo 1958. Liege wafers, in contrast to the Brussels version, are softer, sweeter, oval or round. They are satisfying, and their secret ingredient is sugar pearls. A dessert with hot chocolate, whipped cream and various fruits is served.
Local products worth a try
What to try in Belgium? Of course, locally made products.
Belgian chocolate is a national pride. Sweetness of the highest quality. Masters prepare treats from chocolate from small sweets to huge compositions.
Interesting fact! In terms of chocolate consumption, Belgium is in third place in the world and second only to Switzerland and Germany.
It is best to buy chocolate in private shops where it is prepared manually. The most popular sweet is Pierre Marcolini’s chocolate; in Brussels there are several chocolate shops named after the master.
From what in Belgium you can go crazy – from the abundance of cheeses. They are prepared according to traditional recipes and an exclusive recipe, with the addition of herbs, nettles, spices, nuts.
Some varieties have a too pungent odor – Camembert, Hevre, Chaumes.
A large group of blue cheese – gorgonzola, roquefort. Goat cheese and rambole with herbs are popular. With particular respect, the Belgians treat the “old” cheese varieties, even the names give them honorable – Old Brugge or Old Brussels.
It is impossible to imagine Belgian cuisine without beer. The country produces more than a thousand varieties of the drink, which is exported to dozens of countries around the world. Beer made in Belgium is not inferior in its taste to a luxurious German drink. Local brewers use their own secret ingredients, which give the beer a unique aftertaste – fruits, rice, honey.
The most famous varieties: Lambic, Creek, Geuze, Trappist.
Belgian cuisine attracts the attention of millions of tourists; people come here to taste colorful treats from a wide variety of products. Be prepared for the fact that after returning from a trip they will ask you what you ate and not what you saw.