Best known for its decadent chocolates, artisanal beers, and distinct regional architecture, Belgium is also a gastronomic jewel of Europe. Its cuisine, a delightful fusion of French finesse and Germanic portions, offers food lovers a gourmet journey through rich flavors and traditional cooking techniques. This article uncovers the main dishes that make Belgian cuisine a gastronomic treasure.
Moules-Frites – Known as Belgium’s national dish, Moules-Frites, or mussels and fries, is a beloved Belgian classic. The mussels are steamed with a mix of celery, onions, butter, and white wine, resulting in a flavorful broth that enhances the mussels’ briny taste. Paired with Belgian fries, thicker and softer than their French counterparts, the combination is a testament to Belgium’s love for seafood and potatoes.
Carbonade Flamande – This hearty dish, often compared to French Beef Bourguignon, swaps out the wine for Belgian beer. Carbonade Flamande is a slow-cooked beef stew, where the meat is braised in a rich beer-based broth along with onions and brown sugar, resulting in a sweet-sour flavor profile. Accompanied by a side of fries or bread, this is comfort food at its best.
Waterzooi – Originating from the Flanders region, Waterzooi is a creamy stew traditionally made with fish, although the chicken version is more common nowadays. The key ingredients – chicken or fish, leeks, carrots, and potatoes – are simmered in a rich broth, then enriched with cream and egg yolks, providing a wholesome, comforting dish.
Chicons au Gratin – Also known as Gratinéed Belgian Endives, this dish features endives wrapped in ham slices, covered with a Mornay sauce (béchamel sauce with cheese), and then baked to golden perfection. The bitter endives and salty ham are wonderfully balanced by the creamy, cheesy sauce, making Chicons au Gratin a favorite in Belgian homes.
Boudin Blanc – Boudin Blanc is a type of sausage made from pork, chicken, or veal, combined with milk, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Unlike its blood sausage cousin, Boudin Noir, Boudin Blanc is light in color and delicate in taste. It’s often served with apple compote or caramelized onions, offering a delightful contrast of flavors.
Liège Waffles – Although not a main dish, no exploration of Belgian cuisine is complete without mentioning its world-renowned waffles. Unlike the Brussels variant, Liège Waffles are smaller, denser, and sweeter, with a caramelized sugar coating that provides a satisfying crunch. They are often enjoyed as a snack or dessert, proving that Belgians’ culinary prowess extends beyond savory dishes.
Belgian cuisine offers a rich culinary adventure that highlights the country’s regional diversity, local ingredients, and the high regard Belgians have for food. From the national dish of Moules-Frites to the hearty Carbonade Flamande, the comforting Waterzooi to the flavorful Chicons au Gratin, and the delicate Boudin Blanc to the delightful Liège Waffles, Belgian main dishes paint a vibrant picture of its food culture. Each dish provides a delicious exploration into the heart of Belgium, making every meal an authentic Belgian experience.