The city of Gothic architecture, Ghent in Belgium, is a place that should not only be visited but also tasted
WORLD’S BEST WAFFLES
If waffles have always been your weakness, leaving the Flemish city without sampling a home-baked warm waffle would be a serious offence. Belgium’s street food, classic Ghent waffles are crisp on the outside and airy on the inside (literally; even the ones with a micro appetite can easily gobble down two to three king-sized waffles without complaining of overeating) and to be had with a sprinkle of snowy powdered sugar. These waffles are so well made that they don’t really need a mask of maple syrup or any extra-sweet toppings to make them inviting. They are pure happiness all in their crisp, plain form; just the waft of these waffles can transport you to seventh heaven. But if you fancy a waffle meal, try one with a dollop of whipped cream and freshly-sliced strawberries or even Belgium-special dark chocolate.
Some hate it, some love it, Ghent mustard with its strong piquancy can set your mouth on fire! But after the initial sharp taste, you quite tend to crave its distinct spiciness. Located in the heart of the city at Groentenmarkt 3, Tierenteyn-Verlent produces arguably the best preservative-free mustard in Ghent since last 200 years (since 1790 without the slightest change in its taste). And it’s never more than three days old. What you see is barrels filled with freshly-prepared mustard. Pick one of the signature stone jars or glass bottles in your preferable size (price ranging from €1.80 to €8.80 depending on the size of the bottle) and get your mustard skilfully ladled in it. Ghent mustard makes for a great souvenir for yourself as well as your foodie loved ones as it goes well with everything from different varieties of cheese to meat platter and, of course, beer. Yes, you heard it right. Almost anything is edible with a dab of Ghent mustard on it!
BELGIAN DARK CHOCOLATE
To savour Belgian chocolate is an art. Here’s the trick: close your eyes, cut off all sensory information except the chocolate, pay attention to the taste and let it overwhelm your senses; finally finish by licking your fingers. You aren’t a true chocolate aficionado until you have had your first bite of Belgian praline. Nowhere else in the world will you find such a great variety of unusual, delicious flavours and combinations. From classic melt-in-mouth pralines to bold as well as sophisticated interpretations with exotic flavours, the chocolatiers in Ghent are the true trendsetters in chocolate design. The chocolates produced here have the highest cocoa content and this is what gives them a rich taste and texture unlike any other. Moreover, there’s a lot more to do other than just buying chocolates in Ghent. You can try a whole series of different, diverse experiences; from visiting chocolate museums, going for chocolate routes and walks to tastings with chocolatiers who are passionate about their craft.
FOR THE LOVE OF BEER
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that beer flows as strongly through the arteries of every typical Gentenaar as the water that flows along Ghent’s many canals and rivers. For the pleasures of a beer connoisseur, Ghent has it all – bars dedicated to beer drinking, classic pubs, beer-cafes, and chic minimalist clubs flaunting beer menus that would take a lifetime to drink. But unfortunately, there’s just one beer brewery in Ghent today as opposed to over 100 or even 500 in the 17th century. Gruut Brewery, located at Grote Huidevettershoek 10, right in the heart of the city, is known for its hop-free beer with a distinct character. Beers here are brewed with local herbs like mugwort, ground ivy, sweet gale, yarrow, and heather for bittering, and exotic spices like aniseed, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, and are a culinary staple of Ghent. If beer is your favourite tipple, visit the brewery for demonstrations by a charming local brewer and sample one (or more) of the five distinct beers: White, blond, amber, brown and inferno. Lastly, don’t forget to pick up some quirky cardboard coasters as a memory of your beer tour in the medivial city of Ghent.
If you ou happen to come across fancy bicycle-supported carts filled with sugary violet delights amid the buzzing area of Groentenmarkt, halt and buy a small pack worth €5. A popular Belgian speciality, these cone-shaped, jelly-like candies are called cuberdons or neuzeke, the Dutch word for little noses, and have a secret recipe that dates back to the 19th century. With a main ingredient of raspberry syrup, they are soft centred with a firm shell on the outside; be prepared for an instant sugar rush once they burst in your mouth. If you’re planning to get some back home, make sure you consume them within three weeks of making, or else their surface starts to crystallise.
Ham available in Ghent epitomises rural Belgian cooking. It’s a true classic of the city and you’ll see it as a main ingredient in most dishes made out of artisanal local produce. When on a food tour in Ghent, you can’t miss out on sampling popular Ganda hams (Ganda is the Old Celtic name for Ghent) at the Het Groot Vleeshuis, housed in the old meat market. The Great Butchers’ Hall dates back to the 15th century and very well knows the trick to whetting your appetite – it boasts of Ghent’s special Ganda ham hanging from all over the ceiling making your mouth water. Ganda hams are dry, cured and aged for anywhere between nine to fourteen months. You’ll be surprised to experience the difference in their tastes – cooked ham is a lot more juicy, thick and full of flavour as compared to the thin, dried variety. To make it even more appetising, pair it with spicy Ghent mustard.