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Belgium Food and Drink

Often quoted as having the best cuisine in Europe, Belgium’s foodie specialities extend far beyond just waffles, beer and chocolate. For such a small country, it has rich local resources with fish and mussels being harvested from its North Sea coastline; pheasant, rabbit, and venison from the forested hills of the Ardennes; and first-class beef and lamb from the fertile Flemish polders. Butter, cream, beer and wine are used liberally and feature regularly in the cooking. Restaurants run the full gamut: from Michelin-starred to the humble fritkot (chip) stand. Gastronomes won’t be disappointed!

Specialities

• Moules frites (mussels and chips/French fries).
Stoemp (mashed potato with leeks and carrots).
Witloof en oven (endives wrapped in ham and covered in cheese sauce).
Waterzooi (a fish/chicken and vegetable broth).
Paling in ‘t groen (young eel cooked in a sauce of spinach, thyme, tarragon, sorrel, mint and white wine).
Filet américain (raw mincemeat mixed with egg, onion and capers).
Lapin aux pruneaux (rabbit cooked with prunes and beer).
Faison à la brabançonne (pheasant cooked in butter with brussel sprouts and chicory).
Salade liégeoise (salad containing boiled potatoes, bacon bits and green beans).

Things to know

Belgians love their meat and vegetarian options can be harder to find in smaller towns, so it’s advisable to stock up at the supermarket. Look out for restaurants offering a lunchtime special, known as dagschotel in Flanders and plat du jour in Wallonia, they offer great value for money.

Tipping

A service charge of 16% is usually included in hotel or restaurant bills, although an additional tip may be left at the discretion of the individual. Cloakroom attendants and porters may expect a tip per item of luggage.

Drinking age

16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits.

Regional drinks

Over 400 beers are brewed in Belgium. They range from the mass-produced lagers like Stella Artois through to boutique ales brewed by microbreweries.
• Cantillon (microbrewed beer made in Brussels).
• Trappist beers (monastery-brewed).
• Hoegaarden (white beers).
• Kriek (cherry flavoured beer).
• Lambics and Gueuzes (oak-aged beers).
• Chimay, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Orval and Achel (Trappist ales).
Jenever (a 20-40% spirit, similar to gin, unique to northern Belgium and Netherlands that was originally flavoured with juniper berries, but now appears in all manner of flavours such as chocolate, chilli and lemon).

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