The Belgian "frite" revealed!

Frédéric Solvel. Friteries

05 Jul 2017, 00:07 Last Updated: 29 Jun 2021, 10:06

It is said that it transcends decades without distinction of sex, age or social class. Absolute unifying ingredient, the frite is part of the culinary and cultural heritage of Belgians. And their love for it is limitless...

The Belgian "frite" revealed!
The Belgian "frite" revealed!

There is only one true chip: the Belgian "frite". Its recipe remains a specialty that only Belgians seem to master.

French​ Fries

And even if they are called "french fries" in English, frites are NOT French. The reason for this mistake is linguistic and may come from Ireland: the verb "to french" in English once meant "cut in little sticks". When the Irish massively migrated to the United States (second half of the 19th Century), they brought with them the term "french fries" as in fries cut in pieces.

The Belgian explanation is that during World War I, the American troops in Belgium mixed up the language they heard (French) with the food they ate (fries). So became the french fries...

Only one recipe: the Belgian one

Often copied abroad (for example the bizarre Poutine from Quebec) but never equalled, the true Belgian frite is prepared by using Bintjes, a slightly floury variety of potato. The choice of oil for the chip also dictates the final product's taste. For a "traditional" preparation, we recommend using beef fat (graisse de boeuf). But lower calorie alternatives exist, such as healthier vegetable oils.

  • Once you peeled the potatoes, slice them into maximum 1 cm thick pieces. 
  • Once you're done, wash the fries in cold salty water (to get rid of the starch), then dry them using a cloth.
  • Immediately put the fat or oil to heat at 160°C for the first fry. When the fries start coming to the surface, wait for one minute and remove them from the frying machine.
  • Let them cool for a while.
  • Then raise the temperature of the frying machine to 180 °C and dunk the fries again until they are golden. Once you have drained them, wipe to remove any remaining fat.

Another method involves placing the fries into a bag shaped like an upturned cone (just like on real fry stands) so that the fat is "trapped" in the bottom of the cone. However, if you don't have the equipment nor the time to cook fries in this manner, Fritkots (called "baraques à frites" in Wallonia) will come to the rescue.

Worrisome disappearance

Problems receiving building permits from the town authorities, inadequate hygiene standards, fierce competition from durum and pita snack bars: the difficulties faced by these establishments are on the increase. Lucien Decraeye, President of the National Union of Fries Stall owners (Unafri), laments this whilst, reminding the interest of such friendly outlets to tourists visiting the capital.

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