November 8, 2013
Saori shares our love for travel and great food. She is from Japan, but has been living in Brussels for the past two years. She is currently a contributor to a top Japanese travel blog as THE authority of all things Brussels. Enjoy her guest post as she shares her insider knowledge on the world of waffles in Brussels!
One of the must-eat foods in Belgium, aka gourmet country, is Waffles. There are two kinds of waffles in Belgium: the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle. The Brussels waffle is very light and similar to a wafer. The Liege waffle is what people usually refer to as a Belgian waffle. It is more dense and has a heavier consistency.
Travel guidebooks usually recommend Dandoy’s waffle, but if you head to Dandoy, you will see that right next door there is a €1 waffle shop. There is usually a long queue of tourists waiting for an affordable treat. There are also many other places where you can buy waffles and the waffles they sell all look more or less the same. So, since they all look the same, do they also taste the same?
Of course NOT! Since I moved to Brussels, I tried many waffles but was disappointed with most of them. I often wondered why people speak so highly about Belgian waffles. But I kept trying different shops, and one day I discovered an unspoken rule on how to get a really good waffle.
The rule is to choose a freshly baked waffle.
The waffle you are buying must be freshly baked (and it is usually super hot so you have to be careful not to burn yourself) and just out of a waffle maker. It is NOT a reheated “pre-baked” waffle. Reheated waffles are warm, but not that hot.
So you think getting a freshly baked waffle sounds like common sense? But why? Let me explain why it is so important to pay attention to whether your waffle is freshly baked or reheated and why reheated waffles are not tasty.
When a waffle is freshly baked, the heat melts the butter and sugar completely. This is why, when you receive a freshly baked waffle, it is so soft that you will have to hold it carefully with many fingers (or even two hands). If you receive a reheated waffle, you will notice immediately that the waffle is not as soft and you can hold it with just two fingers.
When a freshly baked waffle is left to cool, the heat continues to bake the waffle, which makes the waffle dry and hard. When the waffle is cooled off, the melted butter and sugar will congeal and form a crust. When reheating the waffle, the only aim is to warm up the waffle because it is probably not possible to reheat the waffle until the butter and sugar would melt again without burning the waffle. So, this is why a reheated waffle feels and tastes so different from a freshly baked waffle.
Forget about eating a cold waffle – it is even worse than a reheated waffle. As you already know, waffle dough contains a lot of butter and sugar. If you are unlucky, you can actually feel sugar grains and butter coating your tongue, which will not go away unless you drink something hot (to melt and wash them away). It is just disgusting!
As I mentioned earlier, I thought a reheated waffle was the Belgian waffle people talked about. I was purely shocked when I first tasted a freshly baked waffle and cursed all the shop owners who nicely smiled and gave me reheated waffles.
So where can you buy freshly baked waffles in Brussels? You need to observe how a shop serves waffles to be sure. I assumed those shops with a long queue were always baking waffles, but this was not true. I tried to buy a waffle from one of these waffle shops and asked them if I could get a freshly baked waffle. They said “yes” and placed an already baked waffle into a waffle maker. They usually stock baked waffles and you rarely see them baking a waffle from batter. At another shop (and this one is rather prestigious), they said “yes” and pulled out frozen waffles from a fridge to place them in a waffle maker.
If you don’t want to take the risk, go to Dandoy. They are actually always baking waffles, so you can get a freshly baked waffle without even asking. I am usually successful with waffle vans near Metro Louise and Palace Royal (in front of the Magritte Museum). I also find some kiosks in metro stations are usually willing to bake a waffle if you tell them you want to have a freshly baked waffle. Check how many baked waffles they already have in a display case – if there are only a few, they will bake one for you.
A waffle is cheap and available at many places in Brussels, but a little effort in getting the right ones makes a big difference to how they taste. So, make sure to get a freshly baked waffle if you decide to try a Belgian waffle. Waffle vans and station kiosks usually sell Liege waffles only, but you can also find a Brussels waffle easily at Dandoy and other waffle shops. My last advice is, when trying a Liege waffle for the first time, not to add any topping so that you can really taste the real Belgian waffle (you might want to add toppings on a Brussels waffle to enjoy it fully).
Bon appetite! =)
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