My Top 5 Food Items to Try in Brussels, Belgium
Updated: Jun 4
Why Visit Brussels?
The city of Brussels is the capital of Belgium, the de facto capital of the European Union, and the host of the headquarters of NATO. This combination of governments within Brussels has lead to it being classified as a global city, considering how many impactful international decisions are made there. The worlds politicians may converge in this city for various meetings, I visited Brussels because it is also globally recognized for its cuisine that I noticed heavily relied on starchy foods and that sounded delicious. I had 2 full days to explore Brussels and I was staying near the Bruxelles-Central Train Station so as to be within walking distance of the major sites. In those 2 days of exploration I emptied my wallet as I filled my stomach with the food that Brussels is best known for to see how it compared to similar items that I have had at home in the United States.
1) Brussels Waffles
No list on Belgian Food could possibly be made without mentioning probably the number one food item that is associated with Belgium, and that is the Waffle. You can walk down pretty much any alley surrounding the Grand-Place city square and find multiple waffle making locations. For my first waffle experience I wanted to go as basic as possible so the flavor of the waffle itself wouldn't be overpowered by the abundant toppings. The standard Brussels Waffle is made with thin yeast batter or baking powder that is then cooked until a dark golden brown color. Mine was then covered in a light sprinkling of powdered sugar. It was very tasty and tasted like there were some sugar crystals or something else sweet within the waffle itself. I then proceeded to go with the more extravagant waffle eating option which was to get one with an array of toppings. This waffle was topped with a tiny scoop of ice cream, a large amount of whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and strawberries. All I can say is that it was an explosion of varying flavors and much more difficult to eat without making a huge mess. Whatever your tastebuds are telling you to get on your waffle, there is an option.
Moules, or steamed mussels, are a plentiful and abundant dish available in Belgium. It is actually considered to be the National Dish of Belgium. Historically it was known as the 'Poor Man's Dish' because of it being cheap and readily available to eat. This dish is normally paired with french fries. Within Belgium each year over 66,000lbs (30,000 Kilograms) of mussels are consumed as part of this dish. My bowl of mussels did not include fries because I was in the Lounge of the Hilton I was staying at. The perk of that, was that I could eat as many mussels as I wished (and between you and me, it was a lot). Very similarly to the waffles, almost every restaurant in the vicinity of the Grand-Place offers this dish.
Belgian Fries are a staple within the country and can be found just about anywhere within the city of Brussels. There are special Friteries specifically for making premium fries to be enjoyed as their own dish. Belgian fries are made with Bintje potatoes in thick-cut style. The cooking process is for them to be double-cook. First they are fried at a low heat and then left to cool and then just before they are served to the customer they are thrown back into the frier at a higher heat so that they are crispy and ready to be enjoyed with a dipping sauce. The primary dipping sauce used is Andalouse which is a Mayo Sauce. The double-fried style is what sets these fries apart from any other thick-cut fry that I have tried before.
I never got a photo of a Frikadel while I was there but in the middle of the menu from Fritland where I got my Frites from above there is a small photo of this delicious snack. Frikadel is a skinless deep-fried sausage that is a popular snack in Belgium and the Netherlands. It has historically been made with pork, chicken, or horse meat (although horse meat is no longer used as it is a taboo item nowadays in Europe). There's not more that can be said about this item other than that it could almost be compared to some carnival fair food items, which makes it the perfect quick snack.
5) Belgian Chocolate
Finally, the last item is none other than the perfect item for a sweet tooth after eating all of the popular starchy staples in Brussels. The supplies to make the chocolate are imported from various countries, the refining, mixing, and conching must be done in Belgium for it to be classified as Belgian Chocolate. There are plenty of speciality chocolate pieces that can be purchased in the stores, but a set of chocolate bars make for nice gifts to bring home to people as well. They take up less space than a box of chocolates and still come with plenty of flavor.
There are of course many other dishes that in Brussels that I'm sure are delicious and are worth trying, but that requires a longer stay in the city. You can only eat so much in a couple of days, but if you have tried any mind-blowing dishes or food items in Belgium that you would like to share, I would love to hear about it! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Instagram @travelinggibson.
Thank you for reading and good luck with all of your travels!