To Belgians, it’s no luxury to deep-fry their national specialty twice, in some cases even three times, to attain that signature golden brown color and crispiness.
However much the French try to convince you that ‘French’ fries were their idea, Belgians will always stand up for their invention. There was just a little confusion when the American Allied soldiers who came during World War I started calling the fries ‘French’ after the language they heard Belgians speak in the south of the country (Wallonia) – that’s all.
Historians have suggested that fries originated in the 16th-century Meuse Valley, stretching across Namur, Andenne, and Dinant, where poor villagers used to fry fish they had caught in the river to eat. When that froze over in winter, they cut up potatoes into cute fish shapes and fried those instead. Now isn’t that a sweeter origin story than the French’s claim that they were invented by street vendors on the Parisian Pont Neuf in the 1780s?
You’ll find a friterie or frietkot on nearly every corner exuding aromatic greasy fumes and making your tummy roar. A packet of hot crisps is never far away in Belgium.
Brusselaars have developed a habit of stuffing their fries into a sandwich along with fried meat and a river of sauce (crudités optional). The baguette, packed with ‘ammo’ as it is, is called a ‘mitraillette,’ and the flavor bomb has become a fast favorite, now available at every friterie in the country.
Unassuming friteries, such as Frit Flagey and Friterie Tabora, boast queues around the block, signaling that their freshly cut golden sticks are more than worth the wait.
The list of specialty sauces available is unparalleled: samourai (mayo plus sambal), andalouse (mayo plus tomato paste plus peppers), cocktail (mayo plus ketchup), stoofvlees (the sauce of carbonnade flamande), frietsaus (the Dutch, sweeter variant to mayo), tartaar (mayo plus eggs plus pickles plus capers), and many, many more.
Belgians are keen on serving serve a little humor – and typical surrealist note – on the side of their fries.
A serving of fries can provide the ultimate greasy layer for a night on the town when drinking will be involved. Perfect for following up – or pairing – with some fresh brewskis, another Belgian field of expertise.
Belgian fries often come in handy cones, colorful or just plain white, so that you can hold your packet with one hand and dig in with the other.
Fries are deep-fried, golden-colored sticks that come at democratic prices and provide people all over the world with culinary delight. What’s not to love?