The Flavours of Ghent You Have to Try
The city of Ghent doesn’t disappoint when it comes to tasty, calorie-dense food. That is good news; even the best of us need fuel to last a 10-day festival like Gentse Feesten and the student party nights throughout the year. The usual Belgian waffles, fries, chocolate and beer are all available, but some of them have been given a wicked twist. These Ghent food tips constitute my favourites:
Set aside the Hoegaarden, Chimay, Delirium and other famous exports for a moment and try the brews from Gruut Stadsbrouwerij. The brewery, the only one in this city, may be only a few years old, but the recipes aren’t. The brewster (a woman, just like in the old days) flavours the beers with gruit, an ancient mixture of herbs, instead of the ubiquitous hops. A different sort of bitterness results, one that I find very palatable.
If you drop in at the premises at Grote Huidevettershoek 10 for a drink, put two of their coasters together. Then take a look at the clever illusion that forms on your glass. There are also pricey versions of local specialities like waterzooi (chicken stew) but I suggest sticking to the beer!
A little florist opposite the Het Design Museum serves up bloemenijs or flower ice-cream. The flavours include several different roses, jasmine and the blossoms of cherry, cinnamon and orange.
Unlike the heavy, syrupy bandung (rose syrup in milk) that is popular in Southeast Asia, this is something I could never tire of. It’s not overpowering like an essential oil either, and I might put that down to the milk. Every lick and every scoop was a summer delight.
The cravings were difficult to handle after I left, but thankfully there’s now a florist which also makes floral ice-cream back home.
De Gouden Sate
The Golden Satay is close to Sint Pietersplein, a slight detour from the train station on the way to the city centre. Covered with It looks like many of the other frite shops around Belgium, but there is a queue on most nights during the university semester, populated with young people in various states of intoxication.
Its signature creation, the Julienke (named after a late partner of the business), must be the mother of all frite dishes. A mountain of fries is smothered with fried viandel sausages, mayonnaise, gravy, seasoning and crispy onions. It’s big enough to be a meal of its own. Bite into it and let the party of savoury tastes begin. All that fat makes an excellent buffer against several flights of Belgians finest brews.
It’s not a treat that’s available year-round however. Like the rest of the city, the business owners take a break in August, between the end of the Feesten and the start of the new school year.
Neuzeke (‘little nose’ in the local dialect) are a regional speciality. The gummy candies, which resemble large licorice drops, are firm and chewy on the outside, but that gives way to a gooey flavoured centre. I’m not a fan of candy in general but this was concentrated goodness!
Not sure where to find this? My host’s pick is the pushcart outside Himschoot on Groetenmarkt, which also makes fresh pastries on site.
The best thing about these treats? None of them cost more than 5 Euros, and there were still plenty of fit people on the streets!