When travelling, for me the food I eat is just as important as the architecture I see, the attractions I visit and the people I meet. I always, when possible try to eat local or at least try some of the local delicious delights on offer. Unfortunately for me, I am quite a fussy eater, which often makes my task quite difficult. However, I am getting better at trying new things whilst travelling. On a recent visit to the beautiful Medieval city of Ghent, which is in the Flemish Region of Belgium and the capital of East Flanders I honestly didn’t try anything I didn’t like, which is very unlike me.
In fact, I loved some of them so much, I had to restrain myself from eating too much during my trip. Even though I walked a lot, it certainly wasn’t enough to gorge on all the amazing food (and drinks) on offer in the city. Here is my list of ten things you MUST try in Ghent:
Belgian chocolates are delicious, that is a fact. Although very rich and if you eat too many, very sickly. Therefore, they are very much a treat and one that must be savoured rather than devoured, which can be difficult because they taste just toooo good! There are lots of lovely chocolate shops in Ghent including chocolates Van Hoorebeke and Hilde Devolder Chocolatier with most offering try before you buy, meaning you can taste the goodness before committing to a box.
They are more pricey than a bog standard bar of Dairy Milk but that is because of the ingredients that go into them and the time it takes to make them. I always like to bulk buy when in Belgium as they make great presents for people when I get home, especially as they are usually wrapped in beautiful boxes. You must just remember to hand them out and not keep them all for yourself, which is a very tough task.
Croquette aux Crevettes Grises
Even though I am not the biggest seafood fan, I do love shrimp, so when I found out that croquette aux crevettes grises (shrimp croquettes) are a popular starter dish on Flemish menus I was very eager to try them. They were served up hot and fresh during my lovely meal at the Belga Queen and they certainly did not disappoint, in fact, they were delicious. It’s a shame Mr ESLT wasn’t travelling with me as I know for a fact he would have loved them more than I did.
They are made from grey shrimp which are also known as ‘Purus’, which is a unique Flemish sea product. They are often described as the ‘queen of seafood’, less than an inch long, are greyish-pink in colour and have quite a strong taste. Shrimps can be found in many restaurants throughout Ghent and the whole of Belgium. Another great way of eating them is stuffed in tomatoes with lemon juice and mayonnaise.
Cuberdons are cone-shaped Belgian sweets. Locally they are also known as Ghent noses, also little noses and simply just noses because of their shape. Named this because they resemble human noses(!). They can be found across the city in a number of shops, especially chocolate shops. There is the misconception that these sweets are actually made from chocolate and I’ll be honest, as a chocolate addict, I was quite upset when I found out that they are not.
In fact, they are made with gum arabic (like a soft jelly) in a sugary outer shell, they are raspberry-flavoured and traditionally purple in colour. They are very tasty, although they do have a perfume aftertaste and become sickly very quickly. They don’t last that long before they start to go off, therefore they must be eaten within around three weeks of buying them. In recent years the sweets have started to be produced around the world in a number of different flavours including apple and coke.
Frites (with Mayo)
Now, I’ve got a confession -my frites (fries), as pictured, did originally have a big dollop of mayo on top, but the second I walked out of the shop, it plopped off straight onto the floor! However, here’s another confession – I actually don’t like mayo and only asked for it in the first place in order to take a picture (the things travel bloggers do eh?). Therefore, I was actually quite happy. I took the photo and then nipped back to the shop to ask for some ketchup!
Frites and mayo can not only be found throughout Ghent but the whole of Belgium, yep they are the country’s national deep-fried treasure. The portions are massive! The portion I got was a ‘small’ and was still big enough to feed a family of four for a week. I hate wasting food but there was just no way I could have eaten the full cone, even though they were delicious and perfect for eating whilst walking and exploring the city’s streets and at €4 not too pricey either.
Now, these were a lovely little find. I actually received a big bag of these tasty little treats as a present from the lovely folks at Visit Ghent and I am so pleased they introduced me to them, although I don’t think my waistline is. They are a very thin biscuit which resembles lace, made from flour, brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and cinnamon (or ginger) and remind me very much of brandy snap. They are a very popular and well-known biscuit in Belgium which often accompanies coffee at the end of a meal.
I have also read that they are a traditional breakfast biscuit but even I would struggle to eat something so sweet for breakfast, but I guess the sugar would certainly kickstart your day. There are also different variants around the country, some contain almonds, some peanuts. I must admit I didn’t see kletskoppen dentelles anywhere, but then again I guess I wasn’t looking for them as I already had a big bag of my own to wade through, but I’m sure they are easy to find, if you are on the hunt for them, because of their popularity.
Here’s another confession (I’m finding this post quite cathartic, getting all my truths out there), I actually don’t like mussels and yes I have tried them before and simply can not stomach them. However, moules-frites (mussels and fries) is another Belgian favourite and if you do like the slimy little critters than you must indulge in them whilst in Ghent. One evening during my stay, I ate at Pakhuis, a lovely brasserie restaurant, and one of my dining partners tried the mussels and confirmed they were delicious!
Mussels can be found on almost every dinner menu in Ghent, yes they really are that popular, therefore you will not have to look that hard to find them. There are many variants of the famous dish including moules à la bière – the mussels are cooked in a sauce made of beer and moules natures – the mussels are steamed with celery, leeks and butter, however the most common way of eating them is moules marinière – cooked in white wine, shallots, parsley and butter.
These little melt in the mouth delights are possibly the nicest things I have ever tasted and it was completely by chance. As I was running, yes running through the streets of Ghent on a treasure hunt, a big plate of sneeuwballen were thrust into my face and I was asked if I wanted to try one. If only had known how fantastic they were at the time, I’d have grabbed the plate and kept on running.
Originally, back in 1913, sneeuwballen were made by August Larmuseau as a cheaper alternative to the luxury truffles made in the city at the time. It is a light vanilla fondant wrapped in a thin layer of pure chocolate and finished with powdered sugar. Only available between September and March they are something you must try if you love chocolate as much as I do. The stall is easily recognisable as it is blue and white striped and well worth hunting down.
I love waffles, they really satisfy my sweet tooth, they are just quite difficult to eat and I ended up with most of the hot chocolate sauce on my face and not in my mouth. I grabbed my one and only waffle, I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t have more, during my stay with every intention of walking along the waterfront and enjoying the late September sunshine, but of course, the second that I got mine, the heavens opened and I had to drive in a shop doorway to eat, before it, and I got soaked.
It’s not difficult to find waffles in Ghent. You will know when you are close to somewhere that sells them as the sweet and delicious smell fills the air, and if you are like me, you really have to fight the urge to eat them all. If walking the street eating one out of your hand does not appeal why not take a seat at one of the many cafes, accompany it with a coffee and eat it with cutlery, reducing the risk of wearing it, instead of eating it.
Waterzooi is a stew dish which originates from the Flanders region of Belgium and can be made with fish, however, it is more commonly made with chicken, especially in Ghent and is called kippenwaterzooi. I had kippenwaterzooi as my main course at Belga Queen. I do struggle with meat on the bone and therefore struggled with this dish. The sauce which is based on a soup-base of egg yolk, cream and thickened vegetable broth was fantastic though and extremely tasty.
Later on, in my trip, I learnt that other restaurants produce kippenwaterzooi with the chicken chopped into chunks in the stew which I personally would have preferred a whole lot more. Since my return from Ghent, I have found a number of recipes on the internet and am planning on cooking the dish for Mr ESLT as soon as possible, I’m sure he will love it as much as I did – providing my cooking skills are up to par of course.
AND NOT FORGETTING……….
Lovely, lovely beer! There is nothing better than sitting outside on a sunny summer’s day and enjoying a glass of the cold stuff. Even though I visited at the end of September I still got some lovely weather, in between the showers, and I took full advantage. I had the opportunity to try both the brown and the blonde, locally produced, Gruut beers and I personally preferred the blonde, it went down a little bit too easily.
If you are a beer lover and interested in its history and how it is made then you must visit the Gruut Brewery in the centre of Ghent, which is free to visit. Give yourself a couple of hours to wander around the brewery and allocate enough time at the end to sample the finished product!
- I was a guest of Visit Flanders, however, my love of the city and its delicious delights are all my own.
- For more information about Ghent, check out Visit Gent’s official website.