This blog post will walk you through everything you need to know about the modest fried potatoes, and we will also debunk a giant misnomer (sorry, France).
Belgium is the homeland of gourmands, thanks to the citizens' strong focus on quality over quantity. Just take the signature Belgian dishes, such as moules (mosselen), a mixture of mussels steamed in spicy white wine. Or carbonnade flamande (stoofvlees), a beef stew with beer, thyme, juniper berries, mustard and spiced bread. And let's not forget about vol-au-vent, a puff pastry filled with chicken, meatballs and mushrooms in cream sauce. What's striking is that the default side-dish to these mouthwatering dishes is the same: fries!
Fries — or as they call them in Belgium, frietjes — have been the staple of Belgian cuisine, culture and identity since 1830, and since 2014, a proud member of the UNESCO List of Cultural Treasures.
But before we dive into the details, let's set the record straight: why do people call this Belgian dish "French" fries?
According to our sources, the name originates back to WWI, when British and American soldiers stationed in Belgium were big fans of the dish. They named it "French" fries because the working language of the Belgian Armed Forces at the time was French. Shortly after, other English-speaking countries adopted the name, so it entered the culinary hall of fame under false pretences. However, in the Netherlands, they still call it Vlaamse frieten (Flemish fries, and Flanders is the Northern part of Belgium, you see?).
Nowadays, fries in Belgium are sold in paper funnels or greaseproof paper (cornet de Frites, frietzak or Frittentüte), with various sauces, and served in establishments called friterie in French, frituur in Dutch, and Fritüre in German.
May and June are considered the most dramatic period for friteries because these are the months when the new potato batches are not available yet, so vendors need to make do with the old ones from the previous year. The only acceptable quality in this period is the Italian Agria, which is not as juicy as its Belgian counterpart. Its colour is also an intense yellow, as opposed to the Belgian Bintjes, a delicate red on the inside.
After carefully selecting the potato type, it is essential not to freeze them below 7 °C — otherwise the sugar and starch will precipitate out after frying, turning the fries grey or dark brown.
Size is another characteristic to be mindful of: Belgian fries differ from those prevalent in other countries — they are thicker, around 12-15 mm. The internationally known fries are called “allumettes” in Belgium because they are considerably thinner, about 6-10 mm.
The frying process also consists of two stages: first, they pre-fry the potatoes at 180 degrees, followed by a short cooling period. The high-temperature frying in a mixture of beef fat and oil comes after that — the result: soft on the inside, crisp on the outside.
The last step to perfection is to shake the fries well — this way, they will not absorb the oil, making sure they remain fresh and tasty for a longer period. If you order your fries for takeaway, it is best to avoid putting salt on them as well.
So you have your delicious, steaming hot, crispy batch of fries. Now it's time to look at the sauces — and believe us when we say: there are a lot more than ketchup, mayonnaise, tartare or mustard. To provide context: Devos & Lemmens is a 130 years old Belgian company that produces more than 80 varieties of sauces.
In a typical friterie, you will surely come across the following sauces:
- Aïoli, with garlic and mayonnaise
- Andalouse, with mayonnaise, tomato and pepper
- American, with mayonnaise, tomato, parsley, onions, capris and celery
- Bicky, with mayonnaise, cabbage, estragon, pickles and mustard
- Curry, with mayonnaise and curry
- Mammoet, with mayonnaise, tomato, garlic and soy
- Samurai, with mayonnaise and spicy sambal,
- Pickles, with turmeric, mayonnaise and mustard
- Joppie, nobody knows how that is made…but it comes from The Netherlands
Another integral part of any Belgian friterie are the grilled dishes served alongside the fries. You will see hamburgers, meatballs and brochette, but there are a few other contestants needing explanation, such as merguez, a spicy sausage, mitraillette, a baguette stuffed with fries, meat and sauce, or saté, that’s fried meat on skewers.
Now for the prices: potatoes are generally inexpensive. However, friteries scale their prices according to the setting. In Belgium, you will find them in some kind of shed, a converted caravan, or bodegas, but some operate as more upscale places with a focus on dining in, which is reflected in the price.
Regardless of the location and style, fries are hugely popular in Belgium: on average, Belgians consume 75 kg of fries per person per year. Belgian friteries have a market share of 29% for the total fries market. Focusing on consumption outside the home, that share is 40%, and fries even increase their share to 73% within the take-out market. Fun fact: Belgium is a country of 10 million people with more than 5 thousand friteries, meaning that there are 11 times as many friteries per capita as there McDonald’s per American.
Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest periods for friteries, with queues forming in front of them — but thanks to technology, this no longer has to be an issue. There are several ways to improve their operations, such as:
- An app that can be harnessed by returning customers
- A kiosk for effortless self-ordering and constant marketing
- And an ordering webpage for discoverability and ease of use
But let’s see how exactly our solution is a game-changer for your friterie!
A long queue in front of your store is a sign of a popular business, but it’s best to avoid it, right? You can conveniently set different time slots in your dashboard and key in the maximum number of orders you can fulfil in each slot. This will streamline your workflow and enhance customer satisfaction – and avoid delays.
You want your fries to be evenly crispy and fresh for takeout, so define preparation times and send alerts through your dashboard to encourage customers to order in time. This feature transforms rush hour chaos into well-managed peak hour order fulfilment.
Stoofvleessaus is trending in your friterie? With our automated supply chain management, you can accurately predict future orders and maintain adequate supplies. Reduce waste through the smart inventory of perishable items and other inputs.
Oh boy, did you run out of sauce andalouse? No worries, you can rule out any chance of unfulfilled orders because our intuitive technology puts up instant “Not Available” tags on items out of stock.
Are you still accepting orders via the phone and then writing them down on a sticky note? Not with our integrated ticketing system! Just receive and acknowledge orders instantly — our ticket printers will automatically print out new orders, which will help you track and manage orders efficiently.
Friteries within the EasyOrder family
- Frituur Weit operated by a flemish couple in Belgium’s Green Belt offers incredible fries and 34 !!! different types of sauces (yes, we counted).
- De Frietist is a proud representative of Belgian fries culture, where customer experience and taste are central. Testament to that is the more than 2 thousand registered clients in their app!
- Frites á l’heure is a restaurant with unmatched historic vibes: they are located in a building that was the home of influential Belgian writer, poet and Roman Catholic priest Guido Gezelle. The building later was turned into a monastery and a maternity home and now houses the unique bistro-friterie concept. You got it, this one is a classy one. Yet they offer ultimate convenience by offering equally stylish self-ordering kiosks.
Friteries outside of the EasyOrder family… for now.
- Friterie de la Barrière has been a landmark in the Saint-Gilles district of Brussels for more than 50 years. They also support local traders, so any visit will be a match made in heaven!
- Maison Antoine was founded in 1948 by Antoine Desmet and his wife. Their popularity has been constant ever since, and the friterie was also featured in New York Times.
- Frites Atelier in Antwerp is the creation of Dutch Michelin star chef and entrepreneur Sergio Herman. His inspiration comes from the incredible variety of fried potatoes and a dedication to beauty and perfection.