Belgian Food Explained, The Mitraillette

Small eaters might run into trouble taking on the heavy mitraillette
Small eaters might run into trouble taking on the heavy mitraillette | © Renatus/Wikimedia Commons
Nana Van De Poel

Of all the specialty dishes to come out of Burgundian Belgium, the mitraillette isn’t exactly associated with fine dining. Yet what the sandwich stuffed with meat, fries and covered in an abundance of sauce lacks in elegance, it more than makes up for in buckets of flavor. We find out more about the mitraillette.
Now a staple in Belgian friteries nationwide, the mitraillette,or ‘submachine gun’ is a Brussels classic. Its name starts to make sense when you consider that the sliced-open piece of baguette you’re being served really is fully loaded. Any qualms about healthy and wholesome nourishment better be put aside for another day as try this flavor-bomb containing fried meat, crispy French fries, a generous smattering of sauce and optional crudités.
One of the best things about the mitraillette is that almost every single friterie has come up with its own version. While the mountain of fries is an absolute must, Belgium remains their proud inventor after all, the other ingredients are easily interchangeable. Fried meats vary from steaks to sausages to hamburgers, while popular sauces are andalouse, mayonnaise, garlic sauce, béarnaise, curry ketchup and tomato ketchup. Some friterie owners like to add salad, carrots and tomatoes while others prefer to present the sandwich in all its simple, greasy glory.

Friteries have an abundance of meats for you to choose from for the the base of your mitraillette

This said, there’s nothing stopping you from getting creative yourself and picking any meat that looks appealing. If you really want to get crazy, you could even make a combination of any of the 10’s of different sauces available. For such a simple dish, there’s a lot of food for thought here. And while some might consider the whole thing overkill, there’s no denying that this meaty fellow makes for an ideal late-night snack after a good night out.

In the end, the proof’s in the pudding and it’s telling that the sandwich’s popularity has even spread to northern France. There they’ve taken to calling the mitraillette ‘L’ Américain’ or ‘the American,’ a not too subtle reference of the Belgian dish’s resemblance to so many an American overstuffed burger, packed with flavor and fatty goodness. Even the popular Belgium-themed café Petite Abeille in downtown New York have adopted the mitraillette into their culinary midst, where the sandwich stands tall among classics such as moules-frites and Flemish beef stew.

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