Tuesday, September 8, 2009


One of my favorite parts about traveling is getting to sample regional food in its native territory. For example, even though most of us have probably had deep dish pizza or gyros, I'm sure the experience is altogether different for those who've had the opportunity to try them in Chicago or Greece (respectively). Similarly, when I embarked on a trip to Europe last week with my first stop in Brussels, many previous travelers assured me that there was no shortage of regional specialties in Belgium. Of course there are several well known mainstays that come to mind: beer, mussels, fries, chocolate...and Belgian waffles.

I'll admit that most of my previous experience with Belgian waffles includes contemplating the menu at Bob Evans, or IHOP or Denny's (I like breakfast, ok?) and wondering aloud, "What makes a Belgian waffle different than a regular waffle?" Usually, no one seems to have an answer and they busy themselves dumping hot sauce or ketchup or whatever else onto their eggs and pretend not to have heard my ridiculous Belgian waffle question for the 14th time. Oh well. But just this week not only was I able to visit a friend in Brussels, but was able to sample some of the local fare and discover, once and for all, what these Belgians have been up to with their waffle irons for the last several hundred years.

And, no, the difference isn't just that they're bigger than an Eggo.

In fact, it's more likely that the Eggo is just a poor approximation of a Belgian waffle (Dear Eggo, please do not sue me. Thanks, Hilary). If you're lucky enough to stop by one of the ubiquitous waffle stands in Brussels, you'll see right away that the real thing is square or rectangular instead of round, will be served wrapped in paper as a takeaway, and will be served with powdered sugar, whipped cream and/or chocolate rather than butter and syrup. Additionally, different regions of Belgium even have their own twist on the waffle and you're likely to find the most popular of these served alongside the typical Belgian waffle: the Liege waffle.

If you have a sweet tooth, the Liege waffle is for you. Whereas the regular Belgian waffle is plain in flavor and softer in texture, the Liege waffle is made with sugar and thus develops the most amazing caramelized sugar coating on the outside when baked in the waffle iron (clearly you can tell which one I picked). If you're on the go, this is a great alternative to a regular Belgian waffle with heaps of sweet toppings that might be harder to eat while sightseeing through the picturesque, gilded pathways of downtown Brussels. So, next time I'm at IHOP I'll just take mine wrapped in paper to go and ask, "Which way to the Manneken Pis?"

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