The Belgians are world famous for quite a few things! Chocolates, beers, diamonds, waffles, road racing, Manneken Pis, ... But what is equally world famous, is the Belgians’ passion for fries. Their love for the fried potato is so strong that you can find at many local town squares or busy crossings small stands selling fries, the so-called fritkot. There are an estimated 5,000 of these fries stands and it’s so unique in the world that the Belgian government recognized the fritkot as an intangible cultural heritage in January 2014. The Belgian culture is surprisingly vast!
Fritkot is making its Japanese debut at the Belgian Beer Weekend, one of Japan’s leading quality (!) outdoor events. Beer, fries and mayonnaise; for some it might sound very simple, for others it’s a culinary delight. Whatever; the bottom line is “enjoy fries like the Belgians do”.
Don’t call a potato just a potato. The history of the potato covers 8,000 years and there are about 3,000 varieties worldwide. In particular the bintje variety –a potato typically grown in Belgium-, is having the perfect size, color and taste to make those world famous Belgian fries.
Don’t call a potato just a potato.
According to the legend, fries were invented in the region of Namur -in the South of Belgium- in the 17th century. The people of Namur used to catch small fish in the river Meuse and fry them before eating. During the years around 1650, winters were extremely harsh, covering the river with ice. Because it was impossible to fish, the locals started to cut potatoes into sticks to make them look like small fish and fry them instead. And the potato fries came into existence! Nothing more, nothing less!
Fries became world-famous after the World Wars. The expression French fries came into use when American soldiers were given fries by French-speaking Belgians. Because the Americans thought they were talking with French, they called them French fries. The linguistic borders of Belgium are indeed a little complex.
Belgians are masters in making fries because they cook them twice!
Everybody who claims to serve true Belgian fries precooks the fries for 6 minutes at a temperature of 130°C – 140°C;
then leaves the fries to rest for about 10 minutes;
and finally throws them a second time in the oil for 1.5 to 3 minutes at 165°C – 170°C.
Keep it a secret.
It seems that in total the Belgians visit 2.8 million times a week a “fritkot”.
Belgians eat on average about 76kg of potatoes per year; Japanese only 21kg (while they eat approximately 54kg rice per year). Belgians prefer most of all mayonnaise on their fries (40%), followed by beef stew sauce (32%), tartar (13%) and andalouse sauce (7%).