6 Dishes You Can't Miss in Belgium
For a small country wedged between culinary powerhouses France and Germany, Belgium truly holds its own in the food department. Visitors are practically required to indulge in waffles, chocolate, mussels, fries and, of course, all that outstanding beer. But don't overlook these other Belgian delicacies on your next trip.
This monstrosity of a sandwich, a Brussels specialty, consists of a demi baguette topped with sausage or sliced meatballs, lettuce, tomato and an enormous helping of fries, all smothered in the sauce of your choice (go for the spicy mayonnaise). Get your fix near the Grand-Place at Fritland on Rue Henri Maus, just across from the Stock Exchange.
② Endive and Ham Gratin
Belgians sure do take endive seriously; visit a farmers' market, and you're bound to spot an endive farmer with a crowd of customers clamoring around him. In gratin form, whole endives are wrapped in a slice of ham and placed in a baking dish, covered in béchamel, topped with shredded Gruyère and baked until the casserole is bubbly and melty. Any traditional Belgian restaurant is bound to have it, but give it a try at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, a historic brasserie that dates back to 1921.
Often called the Belgian version of beef bourguignon, this dish is made with caramelized onions, a hint of vinegar and dark ale instead of red wine. You can order this stew as a topping for fries at street stands throughout Flanders, but the best versions are homemade. Give it a try at Domus, a traditional Belgian restaurant in the university town of Leuven that also brews its own beer.
It's said these crispy nuggets of deep-fried béchamel sauce actually hail from France. Yet Belgians have made them all their own, filling them with melty cheese or tiny gray shrimp from the North Sea. Find them everywhere from humble frituurs, or brasseries, to the frozen section in grocery stores. And be sure to indulge in fancier varieties—black truffle or wild boar—at The Lighthouse food stand inside the new Mercado food market in Antwerp.
⑤ Rice Tart
Imagine a pastry crust filled with extra-thick rice pudding—that's the crux of a Belgian rice tart. The very best can be found at small bakeries or weekly food markets, but the rice tarts at Panos, the ubiquitous chain at practically every train station in Belgium, will do in a pinch.
It would be a tragedy to leave Belgium without trying speculoos. But there's probably no danger of that, since the crispy spice cookie is served alongside coffee at nearly every outdoor café. Speculoos also comes in the form of ice cream, tiramisu and waffles topping, and huge sections of Belgian grocery stores are dedicated to speculoos (the Lotus brand is particularly good).
Meredith Bethune is a food and travel writer based in Belgium. See how many different beers she can possibly try while living abroad on Instagram at @meredithbethune.
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