What's cooking in Belgium? Our selection of the finest dishes
We all have to eat, so why not enjoy it? If you are hungry for tasty dishes, Belgian cuisine will treat you to a culinary feast. Sure, Belgium is famous for its waffles, chocolate, fries and beers – but there’s a lot more to discover. We have prepared a typical Belgian menu featuring the best classics. Feeling peckish? Get busy in the kitchen or take a seat at the table. Bon appétit!
We start you off with one of Belgium’s most famous delicacies: grey shrimp. Today, they are still harvested along the coast by fishermen on horseback. UNESCO even recognised them as cultural heritage. You can eat them stuffed in tomatoes with lemon juice and mayonnaise, or in a shrimp croquette. The outside of the croquette is a thin crust, and on the inside, you’ll find a creamy shrimp mixture. Yum!
Belgians also like their vegetables. April to June is asparagus season. The classic way to prepare asparagus is Flemish style: boiled, baked in a butter-based sauce and with hard-boiled egg pieces. You can eat this as a starter, but it is also easily combined with meat or – what else? – fries.
Let’s make one thing clear: French fries are not the same as traditional Belgian fries. These Belgian fries (or ‘frites’) are thicker and crispier because they are fried twice. Belgium is packed with ‘friteries’ where you can buy this national dish. Don’t forget to choose the right sauce. There is a wide range of toppings available, and most of them are based on mayonnaise. Samurai (spicy mayonnaise), pickles or joppie sauce ( a mild, curry-flavoured condiment): you name it, they have it!
Belgians don’t only eat fries as a main dish. More often, it’s served as a side dish. The greatest classic to eat fries with is Flemish stew. This mixture consists of beef, vegetables, herbs and spices, but also rich dark beer, bread and even chocolate. No wonder it was voted ‘most popular dish in Flanders’ in 2019.
Another fries-meat combo is beef and pork meatballs, or ‘boulets’. In Flanders, they are covered in tomato sauce or served with cherries. In Wallonia, it’s served à la Liègeois: in gravy with onions and a fruit syrup made of apples and pears.
And there’s more where that came from. On a summertime restaurant terrace, you might notice someone devouring a seemingly giant pot of mussels. Most commonly, they are steamed in white wine, but you can also cook them in cream, beer or even mustard. What goes on the side? Fries!
Don’t worry, Belgians don’t combine everything with fries. But they do love their potatoes. They mash them up and mix them with other mashed up vegetables, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts or spinach. Sometimes, they even add milk or cream. The Flemish call it ‘stoemp’ and often serve it as a side dish with a sausage, especially during wintertime. Another dish to get you through the winter is ‘chicon au gratin’ or ‘witloof’: endives rolled in ham and covered in white sauce. Traditionally, Belgians eat this dish with mashed potatoes on the side, or as a casserole.
Labelling Belgians mainly carnivores is misleading. Belgian cuisine features some famous fish dishes that will make your mouth water. Most famous is Gentse waterzooi: a soup-like stew that originated in the city of Ghent. It is made from fish, vegetables, an egg and a cream-based broth. However, today it is commonly prepared with chicken. Another delicacy is eel in green sauce, a dish that came from fishermen catching eels in the Schelde river and preparing them with whatever herbs they found along the shore. The sauce is mainly made of parsley, watercress and basil, hence the green colour.
When it comes to treats, Belgians have an undeniable sweet tooth. One of the most famous export products is waffles. They come in two varieties: the light, fluffy Brussels waffle and the denser Liège waffle. Not sure which one to choose? Try them both, they are equally amazing! Or, have a taste of the finest Belgian chocolates, made by the best chocolatiers in the world. Is all this eating making you thirsty? Have a beer to wash it all down.
Of course, you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to prepare all those delicious meals. Belgium has some great chefs. Treat yourself to a night out in a restaurant. You can find them listed by city at Resto.be.
Feeling hungry and don’t know what to eat? Link2Europe inspires you with classics from typical Belgian cuisine. Get in touch – you’ll feel right at home!