Frites – the Belgian version of chips – are much more than a staple accompaniment to fish or burgers, as they are in the UK. Frites are part of Belgium’s gastronomic, cultural and tourist heritage. Wallonia wouldn’t be Wallonia without its plethora of frites stalls.
A nice bag of chips is good to eat with friends and family, in a cone or a carton, from noon until dawn. And there many frites stalls (known in Belgium as a ‘fritkot’) scattered all over the country. You’ll find them at motorway service stations, village squares … in fact, pretty well everywhere.
The right sauce for every frite
You can’t have frites in Belgium without adding a tangy sauce, and there are plenty to choose from - from the traditional mayonnaise to sauces with evocative names like mammouth, andalouse, mafia, brazil, bansai, tzigane, etc. Try a few, and name your favourite.
Frites may well be a Belgian invention, but they’re Walloon first and foremost
One legend, from 1781, has it that during harsh winters, the River Meuse in the Namur region would freeze over, so the locals couldn’t catch the small fish that they used to fry. So they would cut up potatoes in the shape of fish and fry them instead.
‘Fritkot’ culture in Belgium
Since July 2017, the ‘Fritkot’ culture has been officially recognised by various organisations as part of Belgium’s intangible heritage. Frites are as much a part of the country’s culture as pizza to the Italians or wine to the French. ‘Fritkot’ affects all Belgians to varying degrees, regardless of their age, origin or beliefs ... and tourists love to share their passion for the deep-fried potato, which is done better in Belgium than anywhere else.
Frites and quality
‘Friterie de chez nous’ is a quality label awarded to Walloon friteries that meet certain standards.
The frites have to be made on site using Walloon potatoes, which are widely grown in the region.
The best variety for preparing frites is Bintje.
Friteries also have to serve the product in a horn-shaped cone or carton, either for eating on the spot or taking away.
It has to be 1 cm thick and fried first at 150° and then at 175°. The result is a golden chip that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Don’t visit Wallonia without making at least one gourmet stop at a friterie.