Are French fries, the beloved food around the world, actually Belgian ?
Brussels may be famous for many things, apart from being the capital of European bureaucracy, like waffles, chocolate and mussels, but here you could also taste probably the best version of the humble and everyone’s favourite fried potato. In Belgium, they are called “frites” or “friets“.
According to the opinion of some researchers, the Belgian fries have originated in the Meuse region. The poor inhabitants of the Meuse valley area were fed mainly with fish. When the River Meuse froze in 1680, potatoes were cut into the shape of fish, fried, and used as a substitute. The Belgian tourism board says that Belgian fries were incorrectly named “French fries” by American soldiers when they came to Belgium at the end of World War I. The French fries were reportedly the result of naming the fries after the French language spoken in Wallonia.
The quality of Belgian fries is of crucial importance. The final result and taste depend upon the temperature of the potatoes before cooking. The best fries cannot be frozen before frying in order to become crispy and delicious. Also the potatoes have to be fried twice in cow fat for the perfect result. In Brussels fries are always served with sauce, most commonly mayonnaise or the classic ketchup. However, the most interesting sauce is andalouse which consists of mayonnaise, tomato paste, and peppers.
Some of the best places to eat Belgian Fries in Brussels, known as “fritkots”, are :
Maison Antoine : Its history starts back in 1948 when they were only serving fries with two kinds of sauces: mayonnaise and mustard. A few years later, the shop was known to everyone in Brussels and customers were clustering in front of the counter. The fries here are always crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Nowadays there are almost 30 different sauces to choose from and unfortunately there is always a long queue waiting to be served (Place Jourdan 1, 1040 Brussels).
Frit Flagey : This is also a famous place for fries in Brussels and very popular among locals. In 2011 a Facebook campaign by citizens of the city saved the place from shutting down. Their golden potatoes are extra crispy and all their sauces are excellent, especially andalouse and americaine sauce. They also serve very tasty fried croquettes and other snacks but the people basically come here for the fries (Place Eugene Flagey, 1050 Brussels).
Fritland : Fritland is located in the city centre, close to the Baroque masterpiece La Bourse. The place has been operating for more than 40 years and is very popular among tourists. They use only fresh potatoes (not frozen) and their fries are always crispy. Apart from the fries they also have a very good variety of snacks. The queue is usually long but the service here is professional and super quick, so you would not have to wait long (Henri Maus Straat 49 – 1000 Brussels).
Friterie Tabora : This small place, also in the Bourse area, is open all night long and serves, according to some locals, the best fries in town. It is hard to find as it is located in the back of the imposing building but certainly worth the visit. It serves quality fries with excellent homemade sauces. Unknown to many tourists this is the place to taste the Belgian specialty without having to wait in a long queue (Rue de Tabora 2, 1000 Brussels).
First time or next time in Brussels don’t hesitate to visit at least one of these places if you are a true food enthusiast. No wonder Belgian fries were officially added to the UNESCO list of cultural treasures and could be considered as UNESCO World Heritage.
*[All photos are from iStock]