Kimberley Lovato has an audience with the "Missionary of the Belgian Fries" and uncovers the sacred rituals of Frite Almighty.
While Belgium has much to offer visitors and residents alike, the country is known the world over for one thing in particular: French Fries (Frites in French).
Michel Mes, self-proclaimed “Missionary of the Belgian Fries”, started his popular website Belgianfries.com back in 1995. He now receives at least 10 emails a day from inquiring fans, and travels the world promoting franchise opportunities, while spreading the word about the true Belgian fry, proper tools and techniques, and most importantly, how best to eat them.
Your site, Belgianfries.com is an homage to Belgian Fries. What prompted this endeavor?
As an IT guy some 15- years ago when the internet was opened for the big public consumption, I needed a subject to practice the new HTML programming language. I chose "The Secret Recipe for Belgian Fries". I thought it would be a good idea to promote this great Belgian food and let the world know where “French” fries really come from. It was an instant success. Everything grew out of proportion from then on.
What is the secret to making the best Belgian fry?
The trick is very simple: Belgian fries are double-fried. First there is the cooking process, then the fries need to cool down and finally, just before serving, they are fried again to make them crispy and golden brown. Of course, the correct type of potatoes is very important, as is the choice of frying oil. Fries should always be fried in animal fat. In Belgium it used to be a mixture of horse and ox fat. These days most shops will use an ox fat and vegetable oil mixture. Details on how to do this at home are on my website.
Do you use a recipe?
I have no recipe. I use the 2-stage frying method, but as potatoes are a "living" raw material (i.e. their structure changes throughout the season) you need some experience to cook them to perfection. It is different every time, you need to watch and listen, especially during the first frying. It is very hard to explain but practice makes perfect.
What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to recreate the Belgian fry?
Don't put too many raw potatoes strips into the fryer for the first frying! The temperature of the oil will drop down dramatically, the water in the potatoes will not escape quickly enough and thus the result will be too greasy. For a perfect final result you need to pay close attention to the first frying. The second frying will not correct any mistakes made earlier.
How should Belgian fries be served and with what kind of sauce do you prefer?
I never eat sauce with my fries. Good Belgian fries will have a lot of taste on their own. Don't spoil it with sauce. A bit of salt is ok. And please serve in a paper cone. But if I need to make a choice I would go for mayonnaise (home made of course) or a spicy sauce like Banzai.
Do you have a favorite location in Brussels to eat fries?
Chez Martin (Place Saint-Josse). He used to run a very nice looking stand next to the church but had to move recently to somewhere else in the area of the Rue des Deux Eglises. A lot of tourists know Chez Antoine (place Jourdan) but I don't like their fries. The toll of their success I guess.
Does it bother you that Belgian fries are referred to as “French”?
Not at all, because it is a totally different product. Once more, after the chocolate, pralines, and a lot of other products, the term "Belgian" stands for freshness and quality. Also, the term “French” fries does not link to the French people or country. It is derived from the old English verb "to french" Originally they were called "frenched fried potatoes".
How often do you eat frites?
Maybe two times a month. You should never exaggerate the good things in life!
Follow Kimberley's blogging adventures, A Broad In Belgium.