What To Eat When You Find Yourself In Belgium
Belgium may not be one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, but it’s particularly culinary style makes it definitely worth a visit.
Belgium isn’t considered a big tourist destination. In fact, most people probably couldn’t even locate it on a map, or name another city in it besides Brussels. But, mention Belgium, and most people will be able to at least tell you that the beer is good, the chocolate is amazing, the waffles are delicious, and the frites are outstanding.
Despite its small size, Belgium holds its own in the culinary world and, while the food may not be the healthiest in the world, it is certainly considered mouth watering delicious. There’s nothing better than sitting outside on a nice day with a cone of frites in one hand and hearty Belgium beer in the other.
Belgium is probably most famous for its beer. It has been brewing beer since the Middle Ages and there are approximately 125 breweries in the country, that produce about 800 standard beers. When special one-off beers are included, the total number of Belgian beers jumps to about 8,700. Belgium is clearly for beer lovers.
One of the most famous beers here is the Trappist beers. These are beers brewed in a Trappist monastery, where the monks control its production and policies, and the profits from the sale must be used to support the monastery. Only seven monasteries currently meet these qualifications, six of which are in Belgium.
Another main beer is Lambic beer, a wheat beer brewed in the southwest of Brussels by spontaneous fermentation. Lambic’s fermentation is produced by exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria in the air. These beers can be aged for up to three years.
Belgium chocolate is supposed to be the best in the world. Belgium chocolate has a high quality of ingredients and producers strongly adherence to Old World manufacturing techniques. Belgium chocolate itself has been popular since the 18th century but increased its popularity during the 20th century when prices dropped and it became more affordable.
The most popular variety here is chocolate pralines that can be filled with a variety of flavored creams, alcohol, fruit or more chocolate. You’ll find a chocolate store on every corner in Belgium. The expensive stores Like Neuhaus and Godiva are worth the money.
Belgian waffles, those large, light, and thick waffles are famous worldwide. However, the Belgium waffle is really the Brussels waffle. Belgian waffles were popularized in the United States during the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Many Belgium waffle shops have the popularized version closest to the tourist areas wherein the local areas there is more of a mix, and more often sold as a pastry instead of a breakfast food. You can get them with bananas, ice cream, chocolate, whatever your heart desires.
Frites, or french fries, is an on the go specialty in many parts of Europe. In Belgium, it is an art. Everywhere you go you see a frite seller and locals walking around with a cone of frites and some mayo. Everyone claims to know the best frite place. And when you eat the frites, make sure you eat them with mayo. It’s delicious.
The Unique History of Dumplings
Did you know that a dumpling eating record was set in Sydney, Australia in 2019?
To celebrate the Chinese New Year, they held a celebration in Sydney in which 764 people all ate dumplings at the same time. They met the previous record in 2013 when 750 individuals participated.
Whether you choose to eat them at a massive celebration or in the comfort of your home, dumplings are an indisputable part of global cuisine. But where exactly did this tasty meal stem from?
We’re here to fill you in! Check out our guide below to learn the evolution and ancient history of dumplings!
Intro to the History of Dumplings
Dumplings have popped up in various cultures throughout history. The easiest way to narrow down their origin though is by first asking: what is a dumpling?
Dumplings are pieces of dough that are fried, boiled, steamed, or baked. Typically the dough holds meat or vegetable fillings. Occasionally the dough is cooked without fillings.
We can trace dumpling-like recipes as far back as Ancient Rome. However, the classic dumpling we all know and love has its origins in Ancient China.
The history of Chinese dumplings began over 1,800 years ago under the Eastern Han Dynasty. A man named Zhang Zhongjian returned to his home village and found that the villagers were suffering from frostbite.
Zhongjian was a medicinal practitioner and searched for a way to assist his fellow villagers. To fight the cold, Zhongjian blended together meat, vegetables, and herbs and wrapped the mixture in scraps of dough. The dumplings were then steamed to bind all the ingredients together.
It’s believed that Zhongjian used his skills as a doctor to create the dumplings. He chose herbs that would help combat frostbite and keep the villagers safe and healthy.
The steaming hot dish was a good way to fight the ill effects of a harsh winter. The villagers enjoyed the meal so much that they continued to make dumpings even when spring arrived.
The Spread of Dumplings
The history of dumplings doesn’t end with its conception in Ancient China nearly 2,000 years ago. Dumplings have pervaded throughout the centuries, and they’ve evolved and changed to fit the needs of the people.
We can see the passage of dumplings as early as the 1300s. At this time, traders often carried their goods along the Silk Road. It’s suspected that this is how one dumpling recipe came to pass from one culture to the next.
At this time, it’s suspected that the Turkish peoples adopted the manti dumplings, likely from the Mongolian peoples traversing the Silk Road. Manti dumplings are made from a spiced meat mixture—typically lamb or ground beef—which is then wrapped in a thin dough before they’re boiled or steamed.
This type of dumpling is most commonly compared to the Chinese jiaozi and baozi dumplings. The manti steamed buns are now a staple even in Russia and post-Soviet countries, where they’ve crossed over from Central Asia.
Pierogi is the Polish word for dumplings and another dumpling variety that many Westerners have grown familiar with. Pierogi—which is actually the plural of the word pieróg—are a Polish staple and are even commemorated with a yearly festival. These dumplings, wrapped in unleavened dough, are stuffed with either savory or sweet fillings before they’re boiled and then pan-fried.
Pierogi have a debated origin story. However, some suspect that pierogi entered Poland from China via the Silk Road, much like the manti dumplings that emerged in Turkish culture.
Additional Cultural Adaptations
While China is often considered the earliest origin site for what we now refer to as dumplings, other dumpling variations have cropped up around the globe since then. Whether you travel through Latin America, Africa, or Central Europe, you’re sure to find the local take on dumplings.
Many dumpling recipes arose as a solution to poverty. It’s much cheaper to combine a ration of meat with vegetables and dough scraps than to create a more meat-hearty entree.
Many of these recipes even take a different route and create sweetened dumplings, perfect for desserts. Others incorporate cheese, much like the Italian ravioli and tortellini and the potato-based gnocchi. You’ll even see an American spin on dumplings in the classic Southern chicken and dumplings dish.
The Globalization of Chinese Dumplings
However, the tasty variations from China still prevail around the world and are a notable addition to American cuisine.
In fact, Chinese food in general has become an integral part of the diets of many Americans. It’s likely that dumplings, as with many other popular Chinese dishes, arrived around the same time.
Chinese immigration to the U.S. began in the 1800s, so we can safely assume that dumplings arrived in the U.S. at this time as well. The Chinese diaspora would still indulge in traditional Chinese celebrations throughout the year. Food played an important role in these celebrations.
By the mid-1800s, Chinese restaurants were becoming more popularized in America. Chinatowns, such as the largest one in San Francisco, were growing in popularity, and their cuisine was too.
Dumplings were but one of many Chinese dishes to emerge in America, but the mass Chinese immigration in the 19th century certainly solidified the dumpling as an addition to the ever-evolving Chinese-American cuisine.
The Importance of Dumplings
The history of dumplings stretches back hundreds of years and has been passed down by hundreds of thousands of hungry travelers and chefs. We’re happy to say that there’s a dumpling for everyone, whether you’re indulging in Chinese potstickers or Italian ravioli!
For more articles on travel and your favorite foods, check out the rest of our website!
Bring Your Appetite To The World’s Best Food Festivals
The world’s best food festivals are offering up some of the tastiest treats in the world in an atmosphere that’s so fun you’ll want to come back again and again.
There are so many festivals out there these days but most of them are centered around music. Maybe you’re not a huge music fan, or the bands you like aren’t really the festival type. Well, don’t worry, because there are still festivals for you; food festivals!
Food festivals are just like music festivals except there way more satisfying and the only drugs people are taking are antacids. Here’s a festival lineup you can get behind, the world’s best food festivals.
WILDFOODS FESTIVAL (HOKITIKA, NEW ZEALAND)
Are you an adventurous eater? Then the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika, New Zealand may be for you.
Here they cook up foods you would never think to eat like seagull eggs, earthworms or mountain oysters. If you’re reading this thinking “why go to New Zealand to this festival when I can stay home and puke for free?” Then you would be labeled as a non-adventurous eater and I would recommend you stick with the chicken feet and duck heads.
THE GOLDEN SPURTLE (CAIRNGORMS, SCOTLAND)
Okay okay, this next festival is a little less adventurous. The Annual Golden Spurtle is the World Porridge-Making Championships. The Golden Spurtle is the prize the winner of this competition receives. “Yeah, but what’s a spurtle?” you ask. A spurtle is a wooden stick that is used to stir a pot of porridge. Plus it’s a fun word to say. Spurtle.
A lot of people are not very adventurous eaters and you can’t get much less adventurous than porridge.
THE ONION MARKET (BERN, SWITZERLAND)
At the onion festival, you can eat delicious onion soup, onion tarts and anything else that you could think to fit an onion into, or if you want you can even eat a raw onion. Why not? It’s not like they’ll run out of onions, there are 50-tons of onions there every year.
The festival starts at 6 am because they have to get rid of all of these onions. The coolest part of this festival actually isn’t onion or food related at all, it’s the confetti war that starts at 4 pm sharp, giving you another excuse to cry when confetti shoots into your eyeball.
WATERCRESS FESTIVAL (HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND)
When you think of a food worth celebrating the first thing that probably came to your mind was watercress. The English use this herb a lot in their soups and salads and sauces.
Everyone’s favorite village of New Alresford becomes a street festival where farmers and chefs come to sell their goods.
This festival even bestows the honor of Watercress King and Queen on two lucky participants who enter the festival in a horse and cart.
SALON DEL CHOCOLATE (QUITO, ECUADOR)
Now we’re talking. This chocolate festival in Ecuador is off the hook.
Did you know Ecuador produces more high-quality chocolate than any other country? I didn’t until I started writing this article. There are about 15,000 people who visit this festival and they have a chocolate tasting, and cooking classes and even a chocolate sculpture competition. Ecuador rules!
BACON FESTIVAL (SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA)
It looks as though California really does know how to party. The capital city of Sacramento has a bacon festival where they cook organic bacon right on the street. There’s bacon tater tots, bacon ramen, bacon ice cream and also plenty of sweet, sweet beer.
A Kevin Bacon tribute band is the icing on the bacon cake that makes this festival one not to miss.
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