Be prepared to completely forget your diet when you visit Brussels. I could tell you that with all the walking you’ll be doing, you don’t need to worry about the extra calories.
But that would be a lie.
Because even if you are able to restrain yourself when it comes to Belgium’s silky chocolate, outstanding beers and hearty stews, Belgian waffles are completely irresistible. Don’t bother trying. When you smell that caramelized, yeasty goodness wafting from every side street in Brussels, you will be forced to taste-test every single waffle, possibly ruining your lunch and dinner. But it will all be worth it, ten times over.
And although it may be sacrilege to suggest this, I can confirm that it is absolutely worthwhile to bring back packaged (yes, really) Belgian waffles home with you as a souvenir.
Know your Belgian Waffles: Brussels Gaufre v. Liege
Belgian waffles come in two distinct varieties– Brussels gaufre and liege. While some may have their favorite, I say why choose? Instead, while in Belgium, enjoy both varieties, as often as possible.
Belgian Liege Waffles
Belgian liege waffles are those dense, puffy, slightly misshapen waffles you’ll find sold in the streets of Brussels. Served piping hot, with crunchy bursts of pearl sugar, liege waffles are downright addictive. I recommend skipping the toppings and enjoying liege waffles in their pure, natural state. Not all waffles stands in Brussels are created equal (and after ample taste-testing my friend Sherry recommends Vitalguafre), but I wasn’t particularly selective on my visit. I just looked for busy stands where the waffles are served straight off the griddle and was never disappointed.
Brussels Gaufre Waffles
The Brussels Gaufre waffle is more of a sit-down affair. Usually rectangular shaped, with a lighter texture than liege waffles, Brussels gaufre waffles are best doused with your favorite topping. I always picked melted chocolate (warning, it can get messy).
Bring Home Belgian Waffles as a Souvenir
Locals will warn you not to bother bringing home packaged waffles. Ignore them. What locals don’t realize is that while it’s true that packaged waffles aren’t as delicious as fresh, hot waffles, they are still pretty damn good– and infinitely better than anything you can find in the US. So forget the naysayers and stuff your suitcase with these treats.
Bring Home Belgian Waffle Ingredients and Make Your Own
Of course, you can make your own Belgian waffles from scratch back home. I don’t have room for a waffle maker in my tiny kitchen so this wasn’t an option for me. If do you decide to recreate this treat back home, make sure to pick up Belgian pearl sugar– absolutely essential to give your waffles that satisfying sweet crunch. Or, for the semi-homemade version, try a Belgian waffle mix.
Buying Pre-Packaged Belgian Waffles
In Brussels, you can find pre-packaged Belgian waffles at the local grocery store and even at some bakeries. I found an ample selection of packaged waffles right at the small supermarket next to my hotel. I skipped the more industrial looking waffles and picked up this small package, with slightly burnt edges that reminded me of the Brussels street waffles.
Back home, I popped my supermarket waffles in the toaster. The verdict? Absolutely delicious, with just the right texture and the sugars perfectly caramelized. The waffles I bought were good for a week, but I can’t confirm freshness because we ate them in day. Next time, I’m buying more.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Souvenir Shopping Tips
What to Buy: Brussels Gaufre waffles– make sure to get them with sugar (sometimes sold with no sugar).
Where to get it: Bakeries would probably be the best choice. I loved the waffles I found in a regular supermarket.
What to Know: While packaged waffles make a great souvenir, they aren’t a true substitute for the real thing– make sure to sample fresh waffles too. [/box]
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Have you tried waffles in Belgium? Tell us about your favorites!