Indulge, Eat, Repeat with the Local Cuisine of Flanders

  • ARUNDHATI BHAND
  • UPDATED Feb 13, 2018
  • 1.9K Views

Warm fries, chocolates and praline, the famous waffles and the much-loved and popular beer Flanders is one place where food is not only a facet of its tradition, but its identity. What started centuries back as accidental or luxurious recipes, slowly became a way of life, and today, you can see the best blend of age old traditions, and technology and innovation that has kept this magic of the food of Flanders alive. With every household kitchen being an artist’s studio, the young artists of today have taken this food craftsmanship to a whole different level. Home to no less than 98 Michelin starred restaurants, Flanders is teemed with fine dining options as well as casual bistros and cafes which serve equally decadent treats. 

Without further ado, let’s delve deep into the history of brews and flavours, walk amongst the fresh wafting fragrances and be smitten by the heroes of this art!

1. A Sip

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Called as the fatherland of beer by many, Belgium boasts of serving the best beer in the world. The craft of brewing dates back a couple of centuries, and the changes that it has gone through over the years has only made it beautifully complex, rather than digress from the original charm. With a history so deeply written in the customs of the people, you are bound to be impressed by all that they have to offer. 

It all began in the Middle Ages, when monks and nuns brewed this drink. At a time when drinking water too wasn’t safe, this drink served as a relief for all. Before they knew, Flanders soon became the master of this brew, with more than 3,000 breweries during the 1940s. So incredible is the beer experience here, that it was also recognised by UNESCO!

Today, you will find the top brewmasters here, with Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achel and Chimay being some of the big names, while young brewers have introduced crowdfunded beer, microbreweries and single batch brews. 

Varieties

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Light and strong, blonde and brown, sour and bitter, fruity and sweet

Beer in Flanders is no less than a shade card. With every hue, the personality of this drink changes exponentially, which is astounding, to say the least. Differing in colours, flavours and alcohol percentages, over 1,500 beer brands can be found here. Some of the best varieties of beer that will impress you are:

  • Abbey- Coming in sweet and sharp and dark brown and heavy blonde, this marks the famous drink that the monks brewed. 
  • Lambic & Geuze- Flaunting a wonderful shade of amber and even copper, this beer is one of the best, when it comes to spontaneous fermentation.
  • Pils- With an elegant light golden shade, Pils is a low fermentation beer. 
  • Speciality Beer- Perfect for those who want to try beer for the first time, Speciality Beer ranges from strong to light and comes in all kinds of familiar, wonderful flavours that are sweet, fruity and even bitter. 
  • Witbier- As the name suggests, this beer is an unfiltered, cloudy wheat beer. 

2. A Bite

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With the major focus on waffles and chocolates, one may underestimate the creativity of spices, however, savoury delights in Flanders are as splendid as its sweet treats! With local produce, the young chefs of the region are reinventing classics and even bringing the family secrets to the streets to expand the love of food amongst tourists. Modern concepts like microbreweries and zero-waste kitchens are gaining momentum, only to shine amongst the others! You will find culinary artists like Gert De Mangeleer and Joachim Boudens’, Kobe Desramaults, Peter Goossens and Sergio Herman showcasing their art on a plate at some of the top restaurants of the world, here. 

A relatively new concept in Flanders is street food. Now lining the major market areas and small lanes are food trucks, small stalls, and little parlors. While the irresistible Belgian fries with mayonnaise are a part of every menu, what with it being considered a national pride, do not forget to feast on seafood like grey shrimps, winkles, and croquettes, and even explore the beauty of the greens at the Veggie Capital of Europe! 

Indulge in Flemish Classics

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  • Belgian fries- Made especially from bintje potatoes, the cone of fries is topped with fresh mayonnaise to give you a warm fuzzy feeling. 
  • Belgian waffles- Crunchy on the outside and soft buttery on the inside, just dusted with sugar or filled with the variety of syrup and toppings is what makes this traditional dish magical. 
  • Beef stew- Lovingly known as ‘stoofvlees’, this dish is often accompanied by a glass of chilled beer. 
  • Mussels- Paired with golden fries, July to February marks the best season to dive deep into the ocean wonders dipped in different sauces. 
  • Steak tartare- Minced beef with a warm egg yolk defines the talent and custom of Flanders.
  • Tomaat-garnaal with fries and mayonnaise- A dish that brings out the best in both the acidic tomato, as well as the subtle grey shrimp, Tomaat-garnaal is at its best when the fresh mayonnaise gives it company. 
  • Vol- Au- Vent- A savoury puff pastry, Vol- Au- Vent is a traditional recipe that pleases the soul. 

Relish Greens at the Veggie Capital of Europe- Ghent

Giving Flanders a different dimension, Ghent boasts of being the Vegetarian Capital of Europe. From organic produce to farmers’ markets, this region celebrates the goodness of vegetables like no other! Every Thursday is marked as a veggie day and most of this city avoids meat on this day. In case you are wondering whether this change in cuisine has affected the way they cook, you could not have been more wrong. Innovation at its best, unique delicacies have been born here, and the only way to understand them is to head here for a feast! Step into Komkommertijd for vegan delight, or to Avalon, La Botaniste or Tuin van Eten to treat your taste buds. 

Along with the greens, treat yourself to a little bit of blue, book a guided boat trip in Ghent here!

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3. An Experience

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Chocolate in Flanders isn’t about the taste, but about the experience. The experience of walking through the chocolate museums, touring the factories, attending tastings and workshops should ideally end with you sinking your teeth into the heavenly goodness. With unlimited avenues to explore this incredible art of chocolate-making, it is no wonder that this land is called the 'Capital of Chocolate'!

With Callebaut and Puratos being the big players in this sector, you will also find many small dreamers aspiring to get up there. With creative methods and bold flavours, this is the only place where you can find the most unique flavour combinations like Wasabi and Earl Grey Tea! 

Along with being home to award-winning chocolatiers like Herman Van Dender, Dominique Persoone, and Pierre Marcolini, Flanders is also the birthplace of another gustatory dessert, Praline. 

The year 1857 saw a unique innovation of medicines being covered by chocolate, by Jean Neuhaus. Who knew that years later, his grandson would go a step ahead and make a small delectable treat that the world will fall in love with? Replacing medicines with a soft filling was an idea that changed the course of innovative chocolate making. Even today, coffee-flavoured buttercream in white chocolate entices every chocolate lover to take a bite! 

Fun Facts!

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  • Cocoa beans are of high quality that are specially selected by the chocolatiers. 
  • As compared to other international chocolate brands, the level of cocoa is higher.
  • With a structure of just 15 to 18 microns, Belgian chocolate is one of the finest chocolates in the world.
  • The mark of original Belgian chocolate is 100% cocoa butter as one of its main ingredient. 

Want to plan a special date with your loved one? Click here to skip the line at Hard Rock Café, Antwerp!

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Walk into Flanders to explore the culinary heritage, the kitchens that still have secrets, and the ones that offer to treat you with captivating stories. Pamper your sweet tooth with delicate chocolates and dig into the traditional cooking methods that will treat you to the best of best! While Flanders offers cuisines from all over the world, come here to take an authentic journey through its cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and homes too!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ARUNDHATI BHAND ARUNDHATI BHAND

An animal lover at heart, marketer by education and artist by passion, Arundhati aims to seek out to all that satisfies her diverse interests. She believes that it is only through experiences that one learns, and a traveller of sorts, she strives to explore the unexplored. She finds herself drawn to the richness of mythology, and the next minute she may be pouring over the latest comic book. A combination of a carefree happy person and an introvert, you will find her playing with her dogs, or reading Yugandhar or Pride and Prejudice in the quiets of her home, staying true to the quote “Adventure is right where you are…”

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