This month, ChezSlaughter Chocolate of Shreveport-Bossier City, LA is featuring the country of Belgium in a ‘Summer Travel Series’ on The Chocolate Blog.
For starters, we lived there for 15 years and want to share some of the wonders of this small country nestled between France, Germany and The Netherlands. But perhaps more pertinent to this website, Belgium is known as the ‘chocolate capital of the world.’
Belgium hosts one of the most progressive chocolate industries in the world, setting the standard for couverture chocolate and knowing exactly what to do with that chocolate as evidenced by the 300+ chocolate companies in a country with only 11 million residents!
Over the next several weeks, we’re going to cover a number of stories about Belgium – some chocolate related, some food related and some recommendations on what you should see and do if and when you visit the country. We hope you enjoy our Belgium Summer Travel Series!
Behold The Belgian Frite
Frites – or French fries – are as much a part of the Belgian culture as chocolate, beer and mussels. With more than 4,500 frite shops dotting the Belgian landscape and dozens of sauces accompanying the culinary delight, Belgium’s love affair with the humble potato is nothing if not passionate.
French Fried History
A visit to the Frietmuseum in Bruges (yes, Belgium has a museum wholly dedicated to the French Fry!) reveals how the wild potato became a cultivated plant in Peru, made its way to Europe and then to Belgium.
According to frite folklore, a frozen river in 1680 forced the poor inhabitants of the Meuse Valley to find something other to eat rather than fish. The tale goes that potatoes were cut into the shape of fish, fried and voila – the frite was born!
But how did the word ‘French’ get tied to the ‘frite’ or ‘fry’? Some say it was in the cutting of the potato, which was ‘frenched’ meaning to ‘cut lengthwise’ . Others say American soldiers coined the name when they came to Belgium during World War I and called them ‘French’ because it was the official language of the Belgian Army. Still others claims the fry has its origin in France.
While the origin of the frite is debatable (no one really knows), most agree that Belgium has put this popular snack food on the culinary map.
What Makes Frites Belgian?
Although the French Fry is world renowned today, what makes it uniquely Belgian? The trade secret is that Belgian frites are fried twice. This induces a chemical process which produces a crispy, brown fry that is completely cooked.
The sauces are also the ‘creme de la creme’ of the Belgian frite. In addition to the standard ketchup, sauces include: mayonnaise; curry ketchup; Andalouse (mayonnaise with tomato paste and peppers); Americaine (mayonnaise with tomato chervil onions, capers and celery); Samurai (mayonnaise with sambal oelek); tartar sauce, and many others.
Shut Up and Pass The Frites!
Ok, enough talking…time to taste the amazing Belgian frites! Many restaurants in and near the Grand Place serve Belgian frites either with an entree or as a side snack, or you can patronize one of these friteries near the Grand Place:
Belgian Frit n Toast (Bij Chez Papy)
1 Rue de la Madeleine
#49 Henri Maus
Photo credit: Bryan Grisham
ChezSlaughter Chocolate of Shreveport-Bossier City, LA is a roving artisan chocolate company. We make chocolate confections from premium Belgian chocolate and handcraft artisan caramels and cookies such as Biscotti. We also offer chocolate workshops and chocolate-themed parties.