Whether you are in one of the big cities or a small village, there is something in Belgium that will you find, no matter where you are. You usually see them in the centre, near the local church or a football stadium. It is a frietkot, also known as a frituur or friture.
What are they?
A frietkot comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be a small stall or a restaurant and anything in between these two variants. Some are only open during lunch or supper, others during the whole day. But they all have something in common: they all sell “frieten”, with a certain number of popular sauces and side dishes.
TAKEAWAY: What makes the Belgian fries so popular and delicious? It is the way how they are prepared. We deep-fry them twice: first at a temperature of 145 degrees Celsius during 5-6 minutes and a second time at 180 degrees Celsius until they are golden. Thus, the “frieten” are crispy outside and soft inside.
A traditional frietkot will sell their produce in paper cones. The first thing you have to decide is the size, where you have only two options: small or large. There are no written rules for the size; if you are peckish, stick to small. Otherwise, go for large. By the way, there are frietkoten that also sell portions for children and a middle size.
By the way, some frietkoten automatically add salt to the frieten. If you are not sure whether yours does this as well, just voice your wishes.
Mayonnaise is by far the most popular sauce. Literally every Belgian has a pot of this sauce in their kitchen. But there are other options as well. Here are the most popular ones:
- Mustard. Check out The Hungry Belgian recipe for the best homemade mustard.
- Chilli sauce. You will find this Asian sauce in every frietkot in Belgium.
- Ketchup: not as popular as in the USA for example, but it is always available.
- Andalousesaus: ingredients are oil, salt, tomatoes, eggs, vinegar and mustard. This sauce has a pink-orange colour which is obtained by adding caramel.
- Tartaar: this has got nothing to do with steak tartare, but is rather a mayonnaise with egg, parsley, chopped onion, gherkin, capers and/or chives.
- Piccalilly: also called pickles. This is a mix of pickled vegetables. Depending on the brand that is used, this can be very acidic.
- Cocktailsaus: mayonnaise with cream, ketchup, paprika powder, sherry, cognac, ginger syrup, pepper, salt and lemon juice. By the way, this sauce is also very popular with seafood.
- Samuraisaus: mayonnaise with sambal. This is by far the hottest sauce available.
Now it becomes a bit more complicated! But this list of side dishes will help you go to a Frietkot like a Belgian:
- Frikandel: this is a long, cylindrical snack based on different kinds of meat. It has a dark colour and is deep-fried. This is by far the most popular snack with frieten. A frikadel is a round meatball and can also be sold at a frietkot. A viandel is a variety, made by the company Mora, with a crunchier outside. And a mammoet is a spicy variant of 26 centimetres long.
- Stoofvlees: beef stew. Remember the Vlaamse karbonnade? This is more or less the same: the biggest difference is that it is prepared without beer.
- Mitraillette: this is basically a sandwich, with frieten, one or more sauces and a snack, for example, a frikandel. By the way, the word “mitraillette” is also a type of machine gun!
- Vol-au-vent: this is a dish that you can find in bistros and restaurants as well. It consists of pieces of chicken, small meatballs and mushrooms in a sauce served in a small hollow case of puff pastry. The sauce itself is based on flour and butter. This dish has been around for ages and is still very popular. The Flemish word is “koninginnenhapje”, which literally means “queen’s bite”.
- Balletjes in tomatensaus: meatballs in tomato sauce.
- Brochette: this means satay and can contain beef, pork or chicken, usually with slices of red and/or green pepper and onion.
- Hamburger: finally a familiar term! Bicky burger is a more popular variant, which consists of a deep-fried burger in a bun with sesame seeds. It comes with a huge variety of sauces.
- Cervelaat: is a sausage, with a mixture of beef and pork. You can order it raw or deep-fried.
- Lookworst: same as the cervelaat, but with garlic.
- Loempia: Dutch for eggroll.
- Merguez: this is actually not a Belgian speciality, but a North-African one. This is a sausage (lamb or beef) with harissa, cumin, paprika, pepper and olive oil. It has a deep red colour and can be quite spicy.
- Garnaalkroket: this is a shrimp croquette. Croquettes are popular as a snack, starter or even a main dish in Belgium and come in other variations with cheese (kaaskroket) and meat (vleeskroket).
- Visstick: this is Dutch for fish sticks or fish fingers. The fish used is usually cod.
- Chicken: usually half a chicken or chicken drumsticks.
- Twijfelaar: the verb “twijfelen” means to doubt, to hesitate. In other words, if you really cannot decide what to eat, you order this: a mix of pieces of different snacks on a stick (like a satay)!
- Mozzarella sticks.
- Koude schotel: this is Dutch for a cold dish and it comes in a lot of regional varieties. Popular ingredients are salad, tomatoes, asparagus, eggs, ham and so on.
I guess by now you must feel hungry! And maybe thirsty? Frietkoten also sell beverages, soft drinks and of course Belgian beers. The bigger frietkoten also have a limited choice of desserts.
Note that a lot of the dishes mentioned in this article are only available in frietkoten. So, if you are interested in Belgian food culture, you really should visit one. Most Belgians speak English and will appreciate it when you are interested in local specialities.