While somewhat influenced by the French and Flemish, Belgian cuisine stands on its own and will vary somewhat by region of the country.
Vegetable dishes prepared with local asparagus and endive (witloof) is customary. Endive is almost always served as a hot dish, but either hot or cold it has a tangy distinct flavor and is high in nutritional value.
Seafood dishes are prevalent throughout the country, with mussels (moules) prepared in a variety of recipes (often with a local beer) taking top honors. Eat them like a local and use a discarded shell to scoop out the remainder of your mussels. Cray-fish served in a white-wine butter cream sauce is also readily available, as are herring, North Sea shrimp, fish, and chicken dishes.
Other regional favorites are ham, an herbed blended sausage, and tomates aux crebettes (tomatoes stuffed with sweet North Sea shrimp in a mayonnaise sauce). Stoemp, a dish from Brussels is mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables served with sausage.
Belgium has a large selection of local cheeses.
Try a classic Belgian dessert of dame blance, vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and chocolate fudge sauce and cherries.
Frites, Belgium’s most popular street food is fried potatoes served in paper cones with homemade mayonnaise, béarnaise or a curry sauce and can easily be found sold from street vendors and in most restaurants.
Also popular is the Belgian waffle (Liege style waffle) baked with bits of crunchy sugar prepared either as plain, vanilla, or cinnamon flavor. In Belgium, waffles are considered a snack or dessert food and not a breakfast item.
During winter months, street vendors provide roasted chestnuts.
Belgium is famous for its love affair with chocolate—preservative free and made only with the purest cocoa butter. While Godiva brand is common internationally, in Belgium one will find hundreds of top-notch chocolate producers. Stop by local chocolateries to find your favorite handmade praline (filled chocolate or the more common chocolate mixed with ground nuts or toffee), sea shell shape chocolate, or a plethora of filled candies in either milk or dark chocolate.
Beer lovers rejoice!
Belgium is known for its superior quality beer production and easily boasts more than 400 different brews, many with their distinct personalized beer glass. Beer production in Belgium dates back to the Middle Ages with current brews available in the white beer (wheat/barley beer), lambic (wheat beer), brown beer, red beer, golden (pilsner lagers), champagne beers, and pale and strong ale styles.
Belgium is home to the famous rich dark Trappist ales, and the similar Abbey beers. The Trappist designation certifies that that the brewery is an actual monastery, monks play a role in the production of the beer, and profits from sales are directed to the monastery and social programs. Belgium is home to six of eleven monasteries that meet these qualifications.