Belgian Mussels and Fries - 3
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Nick MAlgieri

  • Job: Former Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World, baker, writer, teacher...
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In Belgium, steamed mussels and fried potatoes go together as naturally as fish and chips in England, and burgers and fries in the States.

Mussels with Fries - VisitFanders - © www.milo-profi.be

When I landed in Brussels last year, during a late-summer downpour, I had one goal in mind: to get myself some steaming hot mussels and crisp fries, or moules frites. And if you ask me, the combination is one of the world's best comfort food pairings: the juicy, sweet, slightly briny mussels playing off the earthiness of the fries, with the occasional dip of the fries into mayonnaise providing an added note of richness.

You can find moules frites all over Europe, and certainly in France (where the meal is more often called moules et frites), but there's good reason to believe that the Belgians were the first to put the two foods together. Though the French have long laid claim to the fry, it was a Flemish manuscript, from 1781, that first cited something resembling frites—in this case, the potatoes that local cooks had long sliced into the shape of small fish and fried when no river fish was available during winter. Belgian farmers were some of the first in Europe to embrace the potato soon after it arrived in Europe from the New World, in the 16th century; by the 1600s, many had switched from growing wheat to raising potatoes.

In Belgium, steamed mussels and fried potatoes go together as naturally as fish and chips in England, and burgers and fries in the States.
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