Think of Belgian food and the first thing that comes to mind is chocolate, but there is a lot more to food in Belgium than its chocolates.
Throughout summer, carts laden with tiny translucent cones appear at every market square in Belgium. These carts, often manned by elderly gentlemen, stock piles of little cones that look like mounds of modeling clay. “Cuberdons are made by hand with lavender flowers; you put them in an oven and leave it for three days.” The elderly cart owner tells me. “The candy is also called neuzeke, or little nose.” He adds.
Some say a clergyman living in near Bruges first made the Cuberdons, others say its origin is French, but all agree that its recipe is a guarded secret of the Belgians.
“Biting off the top and sucking out the syrup is the classic way to devour a cuberdon, resulting in a volcanic explosion of liquid raspberry-scented sugar. In my school time we use to sneak money to buy cuberdons,” says Fracios Flament, my friend and guide here. I pick one and bite the top off, the sweetness is overpowering, the juice inside is thick; the crust is chewy. Its nothing like I have eaten before, and yet it is surprisingly satisfying.
Talk of fruit beer and all you are reminded of is apple juice infused with CO2, at least to those who grew up in the 90s. But in Belgium you really experience what fruit beer means. While Beer of every possible kind flows through the veins of Belgium, it is the Cherry Beer here that will steal your heart. Tart and sweet, and very, very heady, this concoction comes in two variants. One: with added sugar, two: without the added sugar.
“In Brussels you must try Kriek, our local beer produced with sour cherries. It is dry and tart, and you’d really like it.” John, my host in Brussels tells me when I ask recommendations. It is probably important to add that I hate beer otherwise, but I really wanted to give it a go in Belgium.
Kriek turns out to be rather nice. It is fizzy and sour, and dry. It leaves a lingering aftertaste on the palate that has you asking for more. Pair it with some Egg and Ham pizza (yeah! There’s a thing like that!) and you are set for a long night ahead.
Sweet, savory, freshly made, pre-packed; with sinful toppings, and plain –Waffles are everywhere in Belgium. Most associate waffles with an overtly sweet confection eaten with ice cream or whipped cream, the real waffle, however, is neither sweet, nor savory. It is an airy bread of sorts that gets its mild flavour from the special ale-yeast.
“People think Belgium only has Mussels and Chocolates, but our Waffles are the best in the world. And we don’t add anything to them. It is only for the tourists that some places sell them with obscene amount of toppings.” I am now at Waffle Factory a place highly recommended by locals for its freshly prepared waffles, talking to Paul, a local, who tells me that Brussels has a waffle named after the city.
We find two kinds of waffles here. One is slightly bready, made with yeasty dough, and filled with cheese and ham to make a sandwich out of it; the other is made with a runny batter and is served with powdered sugar or chocolate sauce. The waffle turns out to be soft and airy; crisp outside & slightly chewy inside and has the slight sweetness of yeast. The sandwich waffle is soft but has a bite to it, the melted cheese and tender ham adds body to it. Together they make perfect combination – just like Belgium and its food.