We provide an inside scoop on the the delicious world of the Belgian waffle.
I don’t often do the de rigueur write-ups about Brussels that are part and parcel if you’re a foreigner who lives here. I have yet to do a write up about frites (for the record, the best friterie in the city center is Tabora. The best sauce: samourai) or any of the chocolate shops (Wittamer wins my vote). I have nothing against these write-ups, it’s more like I sort of forget that these things are exotic sometimes.
But I’m going to break my silence. I want to get serious about a serious subject: waffles.
The different varieties of Belgian waffle
Big, thick waffles reign supreme in Belgium and come in two styles – Brussels and Liège. The Brussels style is a light, yeasty and incredibly rectangular affair that’s always consumed inside an establishment on a plate with a knife and fork. The hoity-toity waffle of choice.
Then there’s the Liège waffle. This is the people’s waffle, the waffle that’s sold for less than two euros a pop on the street and warmly wrapped in a slip of waxy paper to eat on the go.
The gaufre de Liège is small and chunky with deep wide pockets that make it easy to tear off chunks of the pillowy dough to pop into your mouth. There is also this insanely addicting smell to them, thanks to the use of pearl sugar in the batter.
These little pearly balls of sugar diffuse throughout the dough when cooking in the iron, oozing out into the exterior, creating this carnival-like caramelization and accompanying smell. A scent so crazy good that when it first hits you about 50 feet before you see a waffle stand, you’re jonesing for a little carbohydrate pick-me-up by the time you finally pass the vendor.
Where to buy Belgian waffles
You can find waffles in pre-packaged sets at grocery stores, but there are subway vendors and even waffle trucks who deal exclusively in the waffle trade. However, the best place to go for a Liège waffle is Belgaufra, a Brussels chain specializing in nothing but this many pocketed treat. The beauty in Belgaufra is the simplicity of having only two options, plain or chocolate covered, at their stands that can be found throughout the city and Belgium.
One quick word about etiquette: waffles are toujours sans suppléments. If you want to go native, grab your waffle on the go without anything adorning its nooks and crannies. Besides, it’s really in your best interest. There is nothing easy about eating a waffle smeared with Nutella and topped with strawberries when you have only a teensy, tiny fork to attempt civil eating. Plus, more toppings means it just takes longer to eat the waffle and where’s the fun in that?
- Gaufres Geurts, a company that produces gaufre de Liege waffles near Waremme, Belgium.