City Guide to Brussels, Belgium: Part 3 | Traditional Food
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This is part six of a six part series on our City Guide to Belgium, where we visit Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. Don't miss part one through five of our Belgium series!
- City Guide to Brussels, Belgium: Part 1 | Public Transportation
- City Guide to Bruges, Belgium | Must See Attractions
- City Guide to Ghent, Belgium | Must See Attractions
- City Guide to Antwerp, Belgium | Must See Attractions
- City Guide to Brussels, Belgium: Part 2 | Must See Attractions
We had the opportunity to go to Belgium, and of course we explored the country by train and experienced four very different cities, Antwerp, Burges, Ghent and Brussels. We took in the sights and enjoyed our travels, as usual. We enjoy trying authentic traditional food that we can’tget anywhere else. It’s one more way, beyond sightseeing and exploring a city, to experience a culture. If you’ve been following us for a while, you may have read our food experiences in Amsterdam, London, or Belfast. You may also recall that we decided to only try very unique foods, not something that we can or have had at home. However, we did something a bit different in Belgium…
You can’t walk the streets of Brussels (or many other Belgian cities for that matter) without smelling fresh waffles and seeing an abundance of specialty chocolate shops. There’s no fooling ourselves into thinking we can’t get these tasty treats at home. However, when a type of waffle and chocolate are named after a country (Belgian waffle and Belgian chocolate), how could we resist?
The Belgian Waffle
To justify the splurge, we gave ourselves a bit of an education on waffles first. They aren’t just the Saturday morning breakfast treat we remember as kids…lego my eggo anyone?
We, as Americans, know a simplified version of waffles. In 1962 Walter Cleyman, a Belgian man, introduced waffles at the Seattle Century 21 Exposition, which were further popularized at the 1964 New York World’s Fair by Maurice Vermersch, of Brussels, Belgium. Vermersch introduced a simplified recipe and, while noticing that many Americans weren’t aware that Brussels was the capital of Belgium, he called them Bel-Gem Waffles. Hence, American’s Belgium Waffles as we know them today.
In actuality, there are two types of waffles in Belgium, the Liege Waffle and the Brussels Waffle.
Brussels Waffle (Gaufres Bruxelles)
Brussels Waffles are closest to the American Belgian Waffle. They are made with egg-white or yeast leavened batter, making them lighter and crisper when cooked. You can spot a Brussels Waffle by it’s larger and deeper pockets and the even, rectangular shape.
Liege Waffles are more dense and sweeter than a Brussels Waffle. The batter is made with chunks of sugar that caramelize when cooked. Bite into one of these and they’ll be thick, chewy and sticky. These are more often found at street vendors in city centers and are easily identified by the uneven edges.
The question we were left with, which type of waffle is better? Do a quick Google search and it’s quickly apparent that it’s an age old debate, maybe as split as, what came first, the chicken or the egg. So, to contribute our two cents, we went in search of waffles in Brussels.
Since fresh waffles are a common street food in Brussels, they can be found all over, especially in city center. You can pay upwards of €6 for a waffle with all the fancy toppings, including ice cream, strawberries, chocolate and just about anything decadent you can imagine. Waffles are much less a breakfast food here, and more of a dessert or snack food. If you prefer a plain waffle, they’re usually about €1.
Near Grand Place and Manneken Pis, we found Los Churros, a much loved waffle vendor in Brussels. For a Euro, we got a Liege Waffle with nothing on it. We could have chosen from a multitude of indulgent toppings, but to truly taste and enjoy the waffle, we resisted. We ordered, and after a minute of the waffle being cooked, it was handed to us. The first bite was a mouth full of chewy, sugary dough. It was everything we thought it would be from the descriptions. But it wasn’t what we’d hoped for. It wasn’t crispy enough and it was much too sugary for our liking. Don’t get us wrong though, we finished every last bit of the waffle!
For us, next time we’ll choose the Brussels Waffle. Either way though, we highly recommend trying both kinds when in Belgium. As the debate goes, there’s probably a 50/50 chance you’ll prefer the Liege Waffle.
As you might imagine, everywhere you turn in Belgium there’s a chocolate shop or attraction. We saw them in the typical tourist spots, but we also saw them in neighborhoods and off the beaten path. When looking at things to do, we had a choice of a couple of chocolate experiences, demonstrations and museums. We thought to ourselves, if we can make it an educational experience, why not, right? This is where Shannon emphatically insisted on ‘yes, we must’.
Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate Brussels
After a few days of site seeing in Brussels we treated ourselves with a visit to a chocolate experience museum at the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. Our timing was perfect; we only had to wait five-minutes for the chocolate demonstration to begin. While waiting we had samples of chocolate to indulge upon. Everything from 100% cocoa wafers to white and milk chocolate wafers. There was even a fountain of chocolate to dip cookies into. We did our due diligence and tasted it all. The 100% cocoa was of course quite bitter. The cocoa butter (the fat extracted from chocolate beans) was tasteless and the white chocolate (Shannon here! Is it really even chocolate?) was quite sweet.
The demonstration was on making chocolate pralines, a hard chocolate candy with a soft cream filling. The Chocolatier was engaging and impressive with his presentation. He was able to present in all languages of the audience (English, French, Dutch, Italian and a little German). He was funny and informative. And best of all, at the end of the presentation (approximately 10 minutes) we were able to taste what he’d made.
If you’re in Brussels and want to visit the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, we recommend the museum with the caveat that it’s mainly for demonstration and samples. The website shows a museum and the employees will say it’s a 45-minute experience (we asked how long it was before we bought our tickets). However, on our visit, we spent about 10 minutes in the demonstration, another 5 minutes talking with the Chocolatier, and only 2 minutes looking at the chocolate making items around the small room on the first floor. Maybe we missed something?
Catch Up On Parts One Through Five!
This is the final part of our City Guide to Belgium series. Don't miss out on the rest of the guide and our adventures!