Whether you call them fries, freedom fries, French fries or chips as my friends across the pond do, I think we can all say that you can’t go wrong by throwing some sliced up potatoes into hot oil.
No one could agree more with that statement than the Belgians. Before my trip to Brussels, I knew that Belgium had great waffles, beer and chocolate, but I had no idea that they were also the makers of some incredibly delicious fries.
Yes, the Belgians are passionate about their fries or frites, as they would say in French. All over Brussels and everywhere else I went in Belgium there were restaurants or snack shops that specialized in making fries and that was all they served. For as many chocolate shops I saw, there were almost as many place to chow down on some fries. It was not at all uncommon to see people walking around with a paper cone filled with the fries they ordered to go. Even when I arrived at the airport at almost midnight, fries were the first and only fresh option available to get rid of my munchies.
So what’s all the fuss about these fries? Well, I still don’t know why we call them French fries in the U.S., but now I have been enlightened in the Belgian way of making and serving fries, and in my humble opinion, they do it better.
There are a few things that make Belgian style fries a little different from the ones I’m used to. Besides being fries in animal fat, typically beef, in order to add some extra flavor, the Belgian fries are actually fried twice. The potato slices are first thrown in the animal fat at low heat. When they’re almost fully cooked, they’re removed from the heat and allowed to cool down just for a short while. Then they’re fried quickly at a very high heat. Sounds simple, but this process is what gives the fries their soft interior and crispy exterior.
Then, there are the sauces. When it comes to food, I am really indecisive because I like pretty much everything. So when I had to choose a sauce to go with my fries in Belgium, I struggled. There are about 50 different sauces sold throughout Belgium to accompany those scrumptious frites. Luckily most places only had a maximum of 20 sauces to choose from otherwise I would still be there trying to make a decision. Of course they have the basics like ketchup, mayo and mustard, but then they also get a little creative. There are many sauces for example that are named after countries or nationalities although the flavor usually has little to do with anything about that place. I’m still trying to figure out what makes the “American” sauce so American, but either way it was delicious.
If the fries aren’t being served with any sauces, or sometimes even if they are, it is also very common to eat them along side some kind of sausage or other piece of meat. This is usually the option people go to if they’re looking to make a heartier meal out of their fries. My advice to you for successfully tackling the grand challenge of choosing how to enjoy your Belgian fries is to rely on teamwork. Bring some friends with you and make sure everyone gets a different sauce or meat so you can try a few different things. If that’s not an option for you, just get a bunch for yourself. Be greedy. That’s what I did.
I hope you now understand all my fuss about the fries in Belgium. Fries are always great, but those ones were especially tasty and I probably ate them a tad bit too often. Between the fries, the waffles, the chocolate and the beer, the struggle to put on my skinny jeans got a little too real for me after those few days in Brussels. Luckily, living in Europe forces me to walk almost everywhere so I think I’ve gotten rid of that extra fluff…Mostly. It was so worth it though. Now, excuse me while I clean up the fries-induced-drool on my laptop.