When you think of Belgian food, you maybe imagine mussels, fries and probably most of all chocolate. Yes, Belgian chocolate is the best in the world (sorry, readers from Switzerland) but there are also many other sweet delicacies to discover. Here are our top tips of naughty Belgian treats to get you drooling over.
Cuberdons, also known as ‘neuzen’ (noses) due to their shape, are a regional product from the city of Ghent. Popular with tourists, the purple sweets are slightly hard on the outside with a gooey raspberry flavoured centre. Other flavours include apple, strawberry, lemon and blueberry.
In Ghent however, the noses are more famous to locals because of the ‘war of the noses’: a fierce, on-going rivalry dating back 5 years between two neighbouring cuberdon sellers. Situated on the Groentenmarkt in the middle of the city centre, both traders stand less than 10 metres away from each other.
Both claim that their cuberdons are the best in Ghent, and their rivalry has already led to them rolling around on the street fighting. Fines and warnings from the police failed to stop the ‘war’, forcing the mayor of the city to ban both vendors from selling cuberdons for two weeks. To this day, both stalls still remain, but we’ll leave it up to you to choose which one you go to.
Where to buy? Sellers Carl Demeestere and Sonny Breine, Groentenmarkt, Ghent
‘Luikse wafels’ (Liege waffles), from the city of Liege, are mainly oval shaped, crunchy, sugar-coated waffles. Not to be confused with the mighty Brussels waffle, which is larger, rectangular and lighter. This waffle is commonly eaten warm with toppings such as powdered sugar, fresh cream, chocolate sauce, ice cream or strawberries. Or if you are feeling very hungry, it is possible to combine all of them! Warning, you may feel rather sick afterwards though.
Speculaas is a spiced biscuit, and was traditionally baked around the Christmas period using winter spices. These days they can be found in bakeries, cafes and shops all year long. Speculaas biscuits are thin, very crunchy and often baked – using specialist moulds – into shapes and characters associated with the Sinterklaas celebrations on 6 December.
A smaller version of the biscuit made by Lotus – called ‘Biscoff’ in the UK and the US – is a common accompaniment with a coffee in cafes and coffee bars around the world. These biscuits are also served on most United States airlines, making it one of the most consumed biscuits in the US.
For the best, most traditional speculaas though, you have to go to Hasselt, in the province of Limburg. It is the city’s proud speciality. Hasselt speculaas originally came as an offshoot of the city’s other famous product, jenever (the Belgian national liquor). The sugar that was left over from the distillation process took on a brown colour and the bakers used it to bake their speculaas.
Where to buy? Patisserie Cools, Hasselt
Only in Belgium you would find sweets made out of beer. That’s exactly what the Oudenaardse ‘bierbollen’ (beer balls from Oudenaarde) are. Confectioner Jan Van Gent combines local cherry beer to make the uniquely flavoursome sweets. These sweets are only made by Jan Van Gent and can’t be bought in any other stores, making them a local specialty.
Where to buy? Brasserie Jan Van Gent, Oudenaarde
These little tarts from Lier are one of the oldest regional pastries from the province of Antwerp. The recipe dates back 300 years.
In 1999 Lier founded the ominous sounding ‘Order of the Liers vlaaike’, with the aim of preserving and safeguarding the quality of the product. Under the strict watch of the ‘order of the tart’, only six bakeries are permitted to produce the pastry and all must stick to the same traditional recipe.
The tart’s dough is composed of water, butter and flour. The filling consists of a mixture of bread crumbs, candy syrup, milk and four spices, and has a wonderful spicy aroma.
Where to buy? Bakery Siebens-Vrancx, Lier
These small biscuits or chocolates in the shape of a hand refer back to the Antwerp legend of the giant Druon Antigoon. Guarding a bridge on the river Scheldt, the giant forced people sailing down the city’s river to pay a heavy toll in order to pass through.
Refusal to pay the toll resulted in the giant cutting off your hand and throwing it in the river. Silvius Brabo, a Roman soldier, refused to pay the toll and fought the giant. Brabo managed to defeat Druon Antigoon. In victory he cut off the giant’s hand and threw it in the river. The hand became the symbol of the city of Antwerp and is still used to mark local products. Folklore suggests that the city’s name derives from this legend: ‘Antwerpen’ comes from the Dutch words ‘hand’ and ‘werpen’, meaning ‘hand’ and ‘to throw’.
Where to buy? Chocolatier Goossens, Antwerp
Have we missed anything from this list? What are your favourite Belgian treats? Let us know!