Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Belgian Frietkots or Frituuren

In Belgium, chips are part of the culture - no two stands alike.

Bernd F. Meier tours the country's chippers and discovers what anyone living here already knows: Frietkots- The Belgians love them.

Tourists passing through Belgium cannot fail to notice the "Frietkots" and "Frituuren", the stands where French fries, or chips, are sold.

These golden-brown delicacies made from the humble potato are on sale at more than 4,000 stands across this relatively small country.

And they are offered these days with more than 30 different sauces, from sweetish mayonnaise to piquant chili.

Belgians see their Frietkots as a kind of bulwark against the invasion of American fast-food chains, regarding their own homegrown fast-food as intrinsic to their culture. In the city of Antwerp there is even a museum to the Frietkots.

In Brussels, the numberless bureaucrats of the European Union stream out of their glass palaces at lunchtime every day with one thought in mind: the nearest chippy.

"Maison Antoine", run by Pascal and Thierry Willaert at the Place Jourdan, is an institution these "Eurocrats" know well. Here members of the European Parliament and prominent public figures wait their turn in the queue with humble secretaries and lobbyists for their portion of chips. This fast-food outlet has been there for more than 50 years.

Frietkots are something of a cult in Belgium. They are everywhere: at street markets, on church squares, along the promenades of the North Sea beaches and at the highest point in the country, the "Signal de Botrange" between Eupen and Malmedy, 694metres above sea-level.

"Chips, pralines and beer make up Belgium's Supertrio," says Bernard Lefevre of the National Association of Chipmakers, the 1,500-member professional chip friers body.

Friday evening is traditionally chip time, when Belgian fathers go out to the outlets and take chips home for the family. High season is in July and August. Some people like their chips - "Frieten Special" - with mayo, ketchup and onions.

The first Frietkots in Belgium were set up in the second half of the 19th century.

"Hawkers offered fried potato chips to their customers during the annual markets in Antwerp and other towns," according to the art historian Paul Ilegems, who himself hails from Antwerp. "A couple of decades later, more permanent chip establishments were set up. And with the passage of time, this spread right across Belgium," Ilegems says.

Some of them have been turned into works of art by Gilles Houben, who works in oils and acrylic. He has immortalized more than 100 chippies in Antwerp and Brussels, exhibiting them in his studio high up under the roof in a Brussels house.

Houben notes with regret that many of the subjects of his paintings have given way to the march of time, as buildings have been torn down to make way for new projects.

"With them, part of Belgian life has passed away," he says.

Unlike the mass-produced architecture of U.S. fast food joints, no two Belgian chippies are alike. Some are converted caravans, some former shipping containers and others simple wooden huts.

"Drive through our country with open eyes and watch out for Frietkots and Frituuren," says Ilegems, the author of a book on the topic. "The chippies reflect the character of my countrymen, which is characterized by individualism, improvisation and surrealism."

Ilegems, who takes his chip research seriously, sees many positive aspects to Belgian fastfood culture. The Frietkots appear to unite the three main ethnic groups in Belgium, the Flemish, the Walloons and the Germans, in a way that nothing else does.

Right across the country, the potato sticks have been prepared in much the same way for generations. Whether in Bruges, Charleroi, Hasselt or Eupen, they are eaten in much the same way. Moreover, there is no class prejudice when it comes to the humble potato chip. "Top managers and working people alike are regular customers at their local chippy," Ilegem says.

Since the 1980s he has been collecting anything and everything connected with Belgian chippies. Some of his large collection is to be seen on the upper floor of "Frietkot Max" at 12 Groenplaats in Antwerp.

Among the most recent additions to his collection are old vinyl records on which bands with bizarre names like "De zingende Frietboeren" - The Singing Chip Friers - sing the praises of the chip in a "Frituurballade".

Belgian chippies have developed their own way of preparing the potato chip. The 10-centimetre long sticks are pre-fried at a temperature of 160 degrees Celsius. Then they are cooled and kept ready for an order.

Once the order comes in they are fried once again, this time at 180 degrees in vegetable oil or in beef fat.

"This double frying ensures that the chip is really beautifully crispy and crunchy," Ilegems says.

There are minor regional differences, discernible only to the most demanding customer. In Limburg and Wallonia the chips are on average 11 millimetres thick, whereas Antwerp's citizens prefer them a millimetre thinner.

In Ghent in the heart of Flanders they are slimmest at nine millimetres, and in Eupen they reach their maximum girth of up to 14 millimetres, according to Jozef van Remoortel, who runs Remo Frit in Verrebroek near Antwerp, one of around 100 chip-making firms in Belgium.

Remoortel's firm delivers ready-cut potatoes to chippies within 24 hours of the raw product arriving at his factory. The preferred potato varieties are "Bintje" and "Hansa".

"We deliver the fresh potatoes vacuum-packed, and not frozen, to the chippies. That's what gives them their characteristic flavour and texture," Remoortel says.

Truck drivers - true connoisseurs of the chip - vote as best chippy the one to be found on the A1 motorway linking Brussels and Antwerp, where an old bus has reached its last parking place between Machelen and Weerde.

Now brightly painted, the bus dispenses huge quantities of chips under the banner "Hunger Killer".

Visit Living in Belgium for information on what's on, where to go, photos and useful tips for making life in Belgium more interesting.

Source: Expatica

Carrefour Strike on Friday 30 April

I heard that some Carrefour supermarkets will be on strike again this Friday 30 April and Saturday 1 May is a holiday so, your weekly supermarket trip will have to be brought forward.

The Sacred Rituals of Frite Almighty

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 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, 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!

Kimberley Lovato
Follow Kimberley's blogging adventures, A Broad In Belgium.

Visit Living in Belgium for information on what's on, where to go, photos and useful tips for making life in Belgium more interesting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Am Not a Tourist Fair in Brussels

The "I am not a tourist" Fair will have a range of valuable resources from previous European fairs, but with extra attention given to community related resources for the experienced expat. Those of you who already have your bearings in Belgium can therefore enjoy as many of the features as the newcomers including food and drink, entertainment, local clubs and workshops. A number of artists and photographers, Belgian and international, will also be exhibiting their work.

So even if you have lived in Belgium for some time already, do come to our fair to discover what's going on in the rest of the expat community and learn more about your adopted country. Our fair is all about enriching your life abroad, whether you are new to the expat lifestyle or an experienced hand!

Regarding those practical necessities, for those new to Belgium and in need of information, our fair will supply a selection of the best resources this country has to offer. The "I am not a tourist" Fair brings a broad range of companies and agencies who specialise in expatriate services together under one roof. From banks, investment firms and insurance companies to schools, local clubs and tax agencies, all have their place at our community fair. The stand holders are there to help you with house and job hunting, immigration and permits, staying long term, starting your own business, having fun and more.

Whether you've lived in Belgium for 5 months, 5 years or even if you haven't yet made the move, you will surely find something of interest to you.

The "I am not a tourist" Fair gives you access to the international community, be it through individuals, groups, clubs, or businesses.

For more information, check out

Date & Time:
Saturday, 6 June 2010 – 10h00 to 18h00

Espace53 – Autoworld Museum
11 Parc du Cinquantenaire
1000 Brussels

Tel: 02 732 22 87
Fax: 02 733 22 87

Merode Metro is just a 5-minute walk away, but the venue also has a large parking area.

Tickets to the fair are free when ordered online and EUR 10 when purchased at the door. To order a ticket online, please go to . One e-ticket holder will be randomly selected during the fair as the winner of a dinner for two at the Expatica Café. Be sure to join us at the fair and see if you are the lucky one!

If you would be interested in exhibiting at "i am not a tourist" Brussels, please send an email to

Visit Living in Belgium for information on what's on, where to go, photos and useful tips for making life in Belgium more interesting.

John Cleese Pays 3,800 Euros for Taxi to Brussels

The British comedian John Cleese decided to take a taxi from the Norwegian capital Oslo to Brussels in order to avoid the flight ban affecting large parts of Europe.
Related ArticlesHalf of transatlantic flights to be cancelled Friday
Brussels airport expected to close because of ash
In Belgium no news is good news
Road deaths rise in BelgiumCleese was in Norway for a talk show, but got stranded after the Icelandic ash cloud closed airports in Norway and Britain.

Cleese then decided to make the final part of his journey via the Channel Tunnel and take the Eurostar from Brussels to St Pancras.

It set him back a pretty penny. Cleese paid 3,800 euros for the long taxi trip. Three drivers took turns to drive the taxi all the way from Norway to Belgium.

Cleese managed to get hold of a ticket for a Eurostar service for Saturday before they sold out.

Norwegian TV did seek alternatives to the long taxi trip, but all ferry services and trains were fully booked.

During the journey Cleese was apparently repeatedly reminded of the joke 'How do you make God to laugh?'

Answer: By telling him about your plans.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tourist Guiding in English and French

Sarah Strange is an English lady who offers tourist guiding all over Belgium in English and French. She charges 30 € per hour with a minimum of two hours.

Contact Sarah at 02/673 28 44 email

Visit Living in Belgium for information on what's on, where to go, photos and useful tips for making life in Belgium more interesting.

Travel Films in Brussels with Angolo dell'Avventura di Bruxelles

L’Angolo dell’Avventura di Bruxelles presents

"20 Years around the Pacific Ocean on a Sailboat"


"Men of the Ocean: life on a lost atoll between the Philippines and Indonesia"

"Men and Dragons: people and giant lizards struggle for space on a small archipelago"

by Carlo Auriemma and Lizzi Eordegh

Thursday, 22 April 2010, at 20:30

More info

We are Carlo and Lizzi, the two of us and our sailboat "Barcapulita", the "clean" sailboat. We went and looked for islands where no one goes, the most remote coastlines, the most far away corners of the planet. We have criss crossed the Pacific Ocean, going to Polynesia but especially to less known islands like Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga.

We went where it is difficult to go. In 20 years of sailing and research we have seen a lot. We met with whales, swam with sharks, lived with primitive and gentle peoples and spent months and months on totally uninhabited islands.

Today, through our videos in English, we will show you what we have witnessed.

Carlo and Lizzi will be with us, and their DVDs and books in Italian, français and English will be on sale this evening.


"20 anni in giro per l'Oceano Pacifico in barca a vela"


"Tra Indiano e Pacifico: vita sulle isole Heremit, Banks e Tikopia"

"Gli Dei del Vulcano: le tribu dell'isola di Tanna, alle Vanuatu"

NOTA: questi video sono diversi da quelli di ieri in inglese!

di Carlo Auriemma e Lizzi Eordegh

Venerdì, 23 Aprile 2010, alle 20.30


Siamo Carlo e Lizzi. In due, su una barca a vela, siamo andati a cercare in mezzo agli oceani quelle isole dove non arriva nessuno, le coste lontane, gli angoli remoti e le nicchie più improbabili del pianeta. Ci siamo fermati specialmente nel'Oceano Pacifico, in Polinesia ma soprattutto nelle isole meno conosciute: Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga.

Siamo andati, insomma, nei luoghi dove è difficile arrivare. In venti anni di navigazione e di ricerca abbiamo visto tante cose. Abbiamo incontrato le balene, abbiamo nuotato con gli squali, abbiamo vissuto con popoli primitivi e gentili, e abbiamo passati mesi sulle isole deserte.

Carlo e Lizzi presenteranno il loro lavoro ed i loro libri e i DVD in italiano, inglese e francese che saranno in vendita questa sera.



"Iran: The Factory of Martyrs"

by Camilla Cuomo & Annalisa Vozza

V.O. Farsi, S.T. English

Monday, 26 April 2010 at 20:30

In cooperation with Faito DOC Festival

A journey through today's Iran, by means of the huge paintings commissioned by the government, which tell about the myths and values of an evolving Islamic society.
A full-lenght documentary, coproduced by Fabrica and RSI, Swiss Television, broadcast on RSI on December 2008 and presented in several international film festivals, including Toarmina Film Fest, 2009 and Faito DOC Festival.


In partnership with: RSI, Radiotelevisione Svizzera


Le lieu de toutes nos réunions est:
Le Cercle des Voyageurs

Rue des Grands Carmes, 18

1000 Bruxelles - (30mt du Manneken Pis)

Tél: (02) 514-3949

La cuisine ferme à 22h15.

Tickets: 8 Euro (Une boisson au bar comprise).

Nous vous attendons à partir de 19h00.

Parking: Grande Place, Albertina, Hotel Bedford (rue du Midi 135)


To be informed about our future evenings, click here to consult our website.

Visit Living in Belgium for information on what's on, where to go, photos and useful tips for making life in Belgium more interesting.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Brewers Launch Mega-Blend Geuze

Eight brewers from the Senne Valley and Pajottenland areas of Flemish Brabant have come together to produce the Oude Geuze MegaBlend 2009 which will be sold in limited edition 75 cl bottles from 26 April. The geuze, described by the producers as a "the mother of all beers" is a joint effort by brewers Boon, 3 Fonteinen, De Cam, De Troch, Hanssens, Lindemans, Oud Beersel and Timmermans.

Geuze is produced by blending young and old lambic beers in a process that allows the sugars in the young lambic to induce a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Lambic itself, particular to the Pajottenland, used wild yeasts and bacteria from the air for its fermentation which gives the typical acidic taste. Lambic is also the base for the production of fruit beers, the most famous of which is kriek.

Lambic probably takes its name from the town of Lembeek. The name "geuze" may derive from the word for "geyser" because of its champagne-like fizz, or from an old Norman words for wheat.

The launch will coincide with a tour of the breweries, organised by the High Council for Artisanal Lambik Beers (HORAL). Each bottle will be numbered and will cost 6 €, with the exception of the first bottle, numbered 00001, which is currently being auctioned on eBay until 20 April.

Visit Gueuze

Visit Living in Belgium for information on what's on, where to go, photos and useful tips for making life in Belgium more interesting.