9 traditional things to eat & drink in Belgium. With mussels!

Mussels for Everyone!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

Have you ever been to Bruges. In Belgium?

Last week I told you that The Tall Young Gentleman and I went to Bruges.

And.

Horror of horrors.

We flew with Ryanair.

But it was pretty alright!

Bruges, otherwise known as Brugge (Dutch) or Bruges (French), is the capital and largest city of  West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium!

The Golden Statue of Saint Michel – at the Cathedral of St. Michael & St. Gudula in Brussels – Belgium

Belgium, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in the Western part of Europe, unlike Croatia which is in the Balkans, Latvia which is in Central Europe or Poland which is in the Eastern part of Europe!

It is bordered between Germany, Holland, France and Luxembourg.

It’s a very small country and has a population of just eleven (11) million people!

Culturally, Belgium is Dutch-speaking (59%), French-speaking (40%), and if it couldn’t get more complicated, German-speaking (1%) too!

The Dutch-speakers tend to be Flemish and live in a region called the Flanders, the French-speakers are Walloon, and the German-speakers are the minority, who live around the borders of Belgium close to Germany!

Belgium is, like Switzerland, officially bilingual being Flemish (Dutch-speaking) and French, and known as being from the Low Countries, or the Benelux group of states, consisting of Northern France, West Germany, Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium itself.

So let’s have a look at Belgian food shall we?

9 TRADITIONAL THINGS TO EAT & DRINK IN BELGIUM. WITH MUSSELS!

Belgian chocolates in Bruges – Belgium
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

Now because of this marvellous mix of cultures and languages, Belgian food is an eclectic mix of Flemish, French & German cuisine. However, outside of the country itself, Belgium is famously known for its mussels, chocolate, waffles, chips or fries.

And beer!

“Belgian food,” otherwise known as dishes of Belgian origin, or thought of as “typically Belgian,” uses items such as potatoes, leeks, white asparagus, Belgian endives, otherwise known as witloof or witlof (Dutch) or chicory!

And of course, staples such as meat, cheese, butter, and beer!

1.  MUSSELS:

In my opinion, the biggest traditional dish that you can ever have in Belgium is Moules-frites, moules et frites or mosselen-friet (Dutch), but known to you and me, as mussels and chips (fries)!

You can practically see the ingredients jumping out of the pot of mussels!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

Fresh mussels caught from the sea.

OMG!

Not only are mussels a most popular traditional dish, but they’re also considered to be the national dish of Belgium!

Mussels or moules are usually cooked or steamed as:

  • Moules natures: Mussels, celery, leeks and butter, steamed in a pot
  • Moules marinière: Mussels, shallots, parsley and butter, in a pot of white wine
  • Moules à la crème: Mussels in a pot of white wine stock, thickened with flour and cream
  • Moules parquées: Raw mussels on half a shell, served with a lemon-mustard sauce (very common in Brussels)
  • Moules à la bière: Mussels, shallots, parsley and butter, in a pot of beer!
  • Moules à l’ail: Mussels in a pot of sliced or minced garlic
  • Mosselsaus: Mussels in a pot of mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar!
  • Mussels in a pot of espelette pepper, Pernod liquor, or tomato sauce
Mussels served with a huge bowl of frites, chips or fries!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

and served with a huge bowl of frites, also known as chips or fries!

As well as Belgium, mussels can be found in Northern France and in Jersey (one of the Channels Islands) linking the UK to France.

In fact, the last time I went to Brittany, I took the ferry on a day trip to Jersey where the locals speak both French and English, and you can use either pounds or Euros.

It’s a very nice island!

But I digress.

Did you know that mussels and chips were invented in Belgium?

We went to this nice restaurant on the riverside next to the fish market called Old Bruges.

I was actually looking for the number eight (8) best seafood restaurant in Bruges called De Gouden Karpel, Vismarkt, but because it was low season, it was closed!

On looking around, I found this one!

Mussels for Everyone!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

Old Bruges looked pretty alright to me, and most importantly, it was the only restaurant at the fishmarket that was actually opened!

I don’t tend to use TripAdvisor for food recommendations as taste vary, but if you do, keep an open mind as the reviews are terrible. Having said that, we went there and the food and service was pretty alright!

We had the Moules natures and the Moules marinière served with a huge bowl of frites, also known as chips or fries!

We were so stuffed that we couldn’t order dessert or another glass of something else!

Yum!

Cost: €24.00

2.  BOTERHAMMEN / TARTINES:

Boterhammen or Tartine is not really a meal per se, but more of a butterbröt snack!

This Boterhammen or Tartine is not really a meal per se, but more of a snack. It’s a type of butterbröt and a meal that you would find in many European countries.

Traditionally, it’s a slice of rustic bread served on a wooden board, with a dollop of some sort of ingredient spread all over it such as butter, jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, smoked salmon, anchovies, cold cuts with radishes, pickles, tomatoes, and mustard or mayonnaise, as well as slices of boiled egg topped with caviar, and of course, pâté!

Some people think that a boterhammen is equivalent to a sandwich, but it isn’t!

A sandwich has two pieces of bread and something in the middle put together. A boterhammen is a single slice of open bread often served with a glass of Gueuze – a fermented Belgian champagne beer – usually found in Brussels!

We had decided not to include breakfast at our beautiful 4-star hotel – Martin’s Relais which was right next to the canal, ‘cos the breakfast buffet cost a whopping €22.00, and this wasn’t that type of holiday!

Boterhammen or tartine with pâté served with pickles & a dollop of mayonnaise!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

As such, we were pretty famished by lunch-time and saw Der Vier Winden just off the Market Square!

From the outside, the restaurant looked really touristy, and it was. So we ordered the lunch menu!

Our starter was the boterhammen or tartine with pâté.

Our pâté was served with pickles, and a side salad with a dollop of mayonnaise!

Yum!

3.  EEL IN THE GREEN:

Paling in ‘t groen / Anguilles au vert, otherwise known as Eel in the Green!
© Takeaway Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Raw eels at the fishmongers. Just add your herbs & you’ve got Paling in ‘t groen / Anguilles au vert!

Paling in ‘t groen or Anguilles au vert is a traditional Flemish seafood dish, otherwise known as Eel in the Green!

It’s what it says on the tin – freshwater eel made in a green herb sauce of chervil, parsley, sage, ginger mint, oregano, thyme, watercress, tarragon, chives, basil, and stinging nettles.

The eels are made into a type of stew and served with bread or a bowl of frites, and a cold glass of beer!

You can usually find this dish at fishmongers, in market stalls, or even ready-made!

 

4. FRITES:

You can’t get better chips than fries from the Frites Museum in Bruges – Belgium!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

There’s no point beating about the bush here, everyone loves chips, otherwise known as fries!

Of course, in Belgium it’s called frites!

I’m not a fan of frites covered with sauces especially mayo and tartare, unless I can dip it in myself...

However, at the Friet Museum / Fries Museum, we learnt all about the history of the Belgian chip. As well as sampling it too!

Frites or friets plays an important role in Belgian culture and cuisine.

The secret of the Belgian chip is :

Who doesn’t like fish n’ chips in Bruges – Belgium!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018
  • The type of potato used – Preferably a bintje potato
  • The fat or oil used – Unrefined beef tallow or blanc de boeuf
  • Freshly cooked potatoes, rather than raw
  • High temperatures – 190 °C  or 374 °F
  • And the importance of double-frying!

None of your low-fat-low-starch content here!

Cost: €1.40

Sauces: €0.60

5.  WATERZOOI:

Waterzooi, otherwise known as Gentse Waterzooi!

Waterzooi, otherwise known as Gentse Waterzooi, is a dish of stew that was invented in the Belgian town of Ghent!

Waterzooi is traditionally a stew made from freshwater fish, otherwise known as Viszooitje.

However, due to the scarcity of burbot and over-fishing, waterzooi or Kippenwaterzooi, is commonly made from a combination of boiled chicken, vegetable broth, potatoes, carrots, onions, swede, leeks, cream and eggs, instead!

6.  WAFFLES:

Traditional Bergische waffles or Belgian waffles!
9 traditional things to eat & drink in Belgium. With mussels!

A waffle is a dish made from leavened batter or dough that is cooked between two plates, and patterned to give a characteristic size, shape, and surface impression.

Waffles are eaten all over the world, but one of the most important types of waffle is known as the Belgian waffle or Brussels waffles, which was actually invented in Ghent (1839)!

It became world-famous when the restaurateur Maurice Vermersch, sold his Brussels waffles in America under the name “Bel-Gem Waffles” in 1964, and thus, the American Belgian waffle was born!

Waffle is derived from the Dutch word wafel, or wafele, but was first heard as the French word walfre, as far back as 1185, meaning honeycomb or cake!

There are a variety of waffles such as:

Liège Waffles – The most popular waffle in Belgium!
9 traditional things to eat & drink in Belgium. With mussels!
  • Traditional Bergische waffles
  • Flemish waffles, or Gaufres à la Flamande
  • Liège waffles
  • Brussels waffles
  • Stroopwafel
  • Galettes campinoises
  • Belgian waffles
  • American waffles

In Belgium, waffles are street food and can be eaten plain, with powdered sugar, whipped cream, strawberries, cherries, soft berries, syrup, or chocolate (American style)!

7.  RABBIT STEW:

If you’re a vegetarian, turn away now ‘cos in our in our household, a fluffy rabbit is called pork!

Being that it’s a Belgian dish, the traditional name of rabbit stew is Konijn in geuze or Lapin à la gueuze, which basically means rabbit stewed in Gueuze, a fermented Belgian champagne beer, usually found in Brussels!

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m very reluctant to eat fluffy animals, so in our household, we call rabbit – “pork!”

8.  CHOCOLATE:

Belgian chocolates in Bruges – Belgium
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

Don’t get me started.

You all know how I detest chocolate...

However, for the integrity of this article, chocolate had to be added.

Belgian chocolate, otherwise known as chocolat belge or Belgische chocolade is chocolate produced in the country of Belgium!

Belgian chocolate goes as far back as 1635! In fact, by the mid-18th century, chocolate had become so popular among the aristocracy, that hot chocolate became de rigueur as to who could actually drink it!

Chocolate plays an important part in the Belgian economy, and there are over 2,000 chocolatiers in the country, with 172,000 tonnes produced each year, exported all over the world and shaped like sea shells, fish, diamonds and artistic creations that can be bought at town centres, market stands, and pretty much every village shop in Belgium!

When in Belgium, you ought to get yourself some chocolate truffles!

If you’re a fan, you know what to do, so don’t let me stop you from visiting the Choco-Story / Chocolate Museum, and of course, you ought to get yourself some chocolate truffles.

I bought a packet of organic milk chocolate Belgian thins. With almonds and toasted coconut chips (Yuk!) for my husband – The Music Producer. Cost: €5.90

That’s all I have to say!

9.  BELGIAN BEER:

Belgian beer isn’t taken seriously, but it’s alright!

OK. Belgian beer!

I live in Germany, so Belgian beer isn’t taken seriously!

Belgian beer spans from a variety of pale lagers to lambic beers and Flanders or Flemish red-brown ales! There are about 180  breweries in Belgium, and microbeers are a pretty big scene!

As in most parts of Northern, Eastern and Central Europe, beer culture isn’t just downing the cheap stuff as quickly as possible, and getting pissed, it’s a way of life!

Belgians drink up to 84 litres of beer a year, and are bought or served in bottles, and uniquely shaped beer glasses!

Belgian beer in Bruges – Brugse Zot!

While we were at the Old Bruges restaurant, I ordered a Belgian beer called Brugse Zot! Belgium isn’t Croatia or Slovenia, so things cost a little more. In this case, €6.00!

On the other hand, when we went to Der Vier Winden, my Stella beer cost a mere €3.50!

Son had an iced-tea. Cost: €3.75

He also had a Canada Dry. Cost €:4.00!

WHERE DID WE STAY?

Our 4 star hotel – Martin’s Relais – Oud Huis Amsterdam in Bruges – Belgium
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

We stayed at the beautiful 4-star hotel – Martin’s Relais which was right next to the canal.

In fact, it’s historical name is Oud Huis Amsterdam – and between you and me, the view is very much like being in Holland!

Without the seedy bits!

I booked the Comfort Twin Room for character, as it featured high ceilings, a garden, a walk-in closet, river views, lots of space and free WiFi!

I thought it was a brilliant choice.

Cost: €97.62 per night. For two people, easily €48.81 a pop!

You can book Martin’s Relais here or in the banner link below!

Laters!

9 TRADITIONAL THINGS TO EAT & DRINK IN BELGIUM. WITH MUSSELS!

Bacon Pie in Bruges – Belgium!
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the delightful mussels and frites we devoured, are my very own!

I’ve got fantastic news. Find out more, next week!

I’ll be continuing my last visit to the UK and telling you all about it, later in the season!

Last week, I travelled to my 65th country and a new destination.

Can you guess where it was?

If you’re not in Berlin in April, you’re craaaazy!

Spring’s finally here!

That’s it for now.

We had a great time in Belgium.

See you next week!

Victoria in Bruges by the waterside – Belgium
©Victoria Ade-Genschow – The British Berliner – Bruges – Jan 2018

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links, I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

Have you ever had Belgian food? Do you like mussels and chips, or would you prefer waffles? Can you guess which new country I went to? Let me know in your comments below!

See you in Berlin.

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