Everyone knows about the famous Belgian fries, beer, waffles and chocolate. But there is so much more to Belgian cuisine. Here are some tasty treats from Belgium that you have most likely never heard of!
This simple yet scrumptious creamy stew is the lesser known sister to the Carbonades Flamandes (basically beef stew cooked in beer).Literally translated, it is stew from Ghent, Belgium that has been boiled. Waterzooi traditionally is made with fish, however a chicken variety emerged and is now quite popular.
Waterzooi originated as a way for fishermen to utilize their unintended catches which is why there is no narrow rule to what type of fish you should use, as long as its a white fish! Legend says that the chicken Waterzooi originated because the riverways became too polluted in Ghent and the fish population dwindled. Whatever the case, there are two delicious options now and that makes my taste buds happy.
Curiously enough I have been told by many Ghent natives that most natives do not like this dish and even fewer make it in the home. I don’t know what they hate about this amazing stew because I love it.
Where to eat it : There is quite a bit of debate over where to get the best Waterzooi in Ghent. I settled on a very reasonably priced Brasserie with a view named T’Vosken. T’Vosken is located in Sint-Baafsplein (between the Belfort and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral). If the view is not good enough for you the food will be. Waterzooi was the first Belgian dish I learned to make after trying it at T’Vosken.
How to make it: Chicken Waterzooi
This is a sandwich that sounds like a mix of things you would never want to try, let alone eat together. It is made with anchovies, pickles, tabasco sauce, and the Belgian version of Steak Tartar, Steak American.
Why is it called Steak American? I am not sure, in fact no one seems to be sure. The theories run wild. In attempt to find an answer I have found a wide array of theories. One theory is that it is payback for the American stereotype of Belgians eating a lot of waffles, we created that image of Belgians and they created this equally ludicrous one of us. Another theory is that Belgians were a bit miffed that we called fries, french fries so they named their steak tartar, Steak American. The other (slightly plausible) theory is that thinking cowboys were similar to Russian Explorers (Tartars) and did not have time to cook their meat, thus Steak American. Perhaps we will never know the answer but we can taste the results.
The Krokantino is actually a take on the classic Belgian Martino broodjie (sandwich), the only differance is in the Martino you have hardboiled eggs instead of anchovies. Because I am not a huge fan of the hardboiled egg I stick with the Krokantino. You can get an authentic Krokantino at the Krokantino Sandwich shop in Ghent which is where the sandwich got its name. I am sure you can nab this version elsewhere by asking them for anchovies instead of egg on your Martino. Anyway you have it, its great and also makes a great travel story to bring back home with you to your friends in the states.
Where to eat it: Eat it by the river banks in the city center but buy it at The Krokantino (cash only folks).
How to make it: Take this recipe from The Dutch Table and add some Tabasco.
Fries With Stoverij Sauce
Ok, fries are not exactly a ‘forgotten’ Belgian speciality. However, I think everyone gets to caught up in the Mayonaise (it is addictive) to try the other very Belgian topping, Stoverij Sauce. This is quite literally flemish beef stew on top of fries,and yes you can get that to go.
Where to eat it: Any fritter worth his salt will sell frites with stoverij (sometimes called stoofveels sauce)
Târt Al Djote
Warm cheesy and local, everything that is good in this world the Târt Al Djote is the speciality of a small town south of Brussels called Nivelles. The tart features a local cheese called the boulette of Nivelles. This is a strange soft cheese is actually fermented cottage cheese, and has a very pungent oder paired with a strong flavor. The other major ingredient is Dijot (chard). The tart is not just a meal it is an experience. You are served the tart on a HOT plate along with a chunk of delicious local salted butter and fresh ground pepper. You spread the butter and enjoy.
The Târt Al Djote or Tart of Nivelles is serious buisness. There is a brotherhood of the tart which is tasked with perserving the cultural and gastronomic past of Nivelles through the tart. Every year at the begining of February there is a tart grading. The brotherhood visits the local resturants to dish out tart scores from one to five, and you better believe the fives are quite proud to be considered the best in town.
These tart certificates lined the walls of the Tavern L’Uninon voted best tart dijot for many years running.
Where to eat it: The Tavern L’Union located in the main square facing the beautiful catholic school in the center of town.
How to make it: Unfortunately if you are living in the states you can’t get the boulette due to the pasteurization laws in the United States.
Cuberdons are a Belgian candy that you either love or you hate. These incredibly sweet traditionally raspberry flavored candies are surrounded by a hard shell with a gelatinous filling. Due to their triangular shape they are also called Gentse Neus, or The Nose of Ghent. You wont find these candies far outside of Belgium because they have to be eaten before the sugar inside begins to crystalize, eight weeks from when they were made.
People are not sure where the Cuberdon originated. There are two competing theories; either it was discovered by chance by a Belgian Pharmacist in Ghent in 1873, or early in the 19th century by the clurgy of Flanders near Bruges.But, What really is fun about these candies is the rivalry behind them officially titled The War of The Noses.
There are two cuberdon carts set up in Sint-Veerleplein (in front of the castle) in the medieval center of ghent. Originally there was only one cart (the one on the right) but a rival came to join the fun directly next to the original vendor. The two would shout insults at each other, shout at customers in the other line to come to taste their superior cuberdons. The fued got so bad that one vendor flipped the cart of the other vendor and they were both banned from selling for a month!
Where to eat them: Only try these treats from the carts they really are better fresh. You can try one from each vendor see who you prefer!
Coque de Dinant
The cake (if you would call it that) of Dinant is a rock hard biscuit made with ONLY honey and wheat flour. The cakes are embossed with designs meant to memorialize the history of Dinant. Because of how hard the cake is you are not meant to bite into it, unless you want to loose some teeth. You should crack a bit off and let it melt in your mouth, or soak it in some coffee.
According to legend the coque de dinant originated in the 15th century during a seige by Charles the Bold. The townspeople were starving and desperate for something to eat, so they created the coque.
Where to eat them: Walk down the street in Dinant and you will see the pastry shops filled with them.
How to make them: I don’t know why you would WANT to but here is a recipe so you can try the Coque de Dinant at home. Simple Coque De Dinant.
I am literally obsessed with anything and everything speculoos. This is the Belgian cookie tastes like a sugar cookie and gingerbread cookie combined to form perfection. These cookies were originally made during the feast of Saint Nicholas at the beginning of December. These delicious treats are surprisingly simple, they are made from wheat flower, brown sugar, butter, and spices. YUM is right.
Where to eat it: You can even find the cookies AND the spread in grocery stores throughout the United States. (It’s called cookie butter at trader joes). If you are lucky enough to be in Belgium try all the varieties of speculoos. They even have a speculoos McFlurry!
How to make them: Interested in bringing a different kind of Christmas cookie to your next party, or looking for something sweet in your coffee? These cookies are perfect Easy Speculoos Cookies
Waffels on a Stick
Waffle or chocolate. It is a decision that plagues every snacker walking Belgian streets. Well now you can literally have the best of both worlds with waffles on a stick in Bruges. Fresh waffles are dipped in a chocolate of your choice and then coated with whatever topping you desire.I went with honey milk chocolate and a speculoos topping (basicly the ultimate Belgian waffle) and it was AMAZING.
Where to eat it: There is a small shop just outside the main square in Bruges called Go.fre . You can’t miss them, there are always people crowding the tiny shop to get their own tasty treat.
Did I miss anything? What are your favorite Belgian dishes that fly under the radar?