I still remember my first trip to a Belgian frituur/frietkot, or fry shop. I mean I knew how important chips (fries) were to the Belgians, but I had no idea there was a whole range of accompanying dishes. If you’re new to Ghent and you are about to dive in, be prepared to walk up to a large fridge cabinet and stare bewilderedly at a range of not-yet-fried but possibly cooked(?) items in all manner of shapes and sizes. Given that all Belgians know what’s what, you won’t find signs next to the items. You’re just expected to know what you want and to ask the server when it’s your turn. So here’s our guide to what you’ll find in a frituur, how to suss out the sauces, where to find Ghent’s best frituurs, and some final tips so that popping to your local becomes, well, small-fry (sorry).
Editor’s note: running around Ghent’s frituurs to take photos of classic Belgian fried food is probably not what the Belgian government would call an essentiële verplaatsing in these corona times. So we’ll add some photographic aids to this post as soon as we can!
Bicky Burger: The secret is in the sauce when it comes to a Bicky Burger. As you might guess, it’s a burger, and its official toppings are pickles, fried onions, ketchup and hot sauce. But then it also has a special sauce added which contains cucumber, onion, cabbage, cauliflower and mustard. If you’re really taken by it you can also buy Bicky Burger-flavoured crisps in the supermarket.
Bitterballen: A Dutch creation, bitterballen are also popular in Ghent. Golf-ball sized crispy snacks with squidgy meat inside.
Boulette: Sausage meat in a ball (about the size of a tennis ball)
Frietjes: Don’t leave without them! Most frituurs offer 3 sizes – a kleintje, medium and grote, with those going the distance also doing familiepakken and minis (smaller than a kleintje). There’s no standard weight for these sizes, which is unlike Belgium to miss an opportunity to make something more complicated. So you’ll need to ask to see the size or just start with a kleintje – this is what you might consider an acceptable portion for one person (well, outside Belgium anyway).
Frikandel: a frika-what? Basically a fancy word for a sausage.
Julientje: Start dropping this term in and everyone will know you got your fries education in Ghent. It comes from Ghent’s most famous frituur (De Gouden Saté – see below) which was originally owned by Julien. He created this concoction but it was originally called a Hugo Claus. It’s fries with saté herbs, stoofvlees sauce, mayonnaise, fresh onions, dried onions and bits of viandel. As a tribute to Julien, who passed away in 2013, they renamed the dish after him. Not all chip shops will serve this – you have a greater chance to sample it at De Gouden Saté or one of the other spots along Overpoortstraat.
Kaaskroketjes: Possibly the only thing in a frituur for a vegetarian? Often served in a restaurant as a starter, kaaskroketjes (cheese croquettes) are also a frituur staple. For reasons unbeknown to me, upon entering the frituur they lose their croquette shape and take on the form of either a deck of cards or a Babybel. Sure it all tastes the same…
Kippeboutjes: this is a quick and easy one – chicken wings. A safe choice. Pretty much the only thing in a frituur that looks like it might have once had a connection with an animal. Tend to be fried without any seasoning, and you get around 5 or 6 on a stick.
Lookworst: Literally, garlic sausage.
Lucifers: Possibly the strangest thing I’ve seen in a frituur, but competition is fierce. Lucifers (French for ‘matches’ – as in, things you light a fire with) are crispy chicken sticks with the top dipped in a spicy red sauce, thus looking like – you guessed it – a match. You’ll get a little carton with about 6 in.
Mexicano: Spicy minced meat in a rectangular shape which sort of (if you squint a bit) resembles a rack of ribs.
Saté: Chicken chunks on a kebab stick with – if you’re lucky – a few bits of onion in between. Sounds the same as ‘satay’, but there’ll be no Dutch peanut-flavoured sauce here, oh no.
…’speciaal’: Put ‘speciaal’ at the end of whatever you’re ordering and it’ll come back with mayonnaise, ketchup and fresh white onion chunks sprinkled all over it. It was while researching for this article that I discovered there is a Dutch song called Frikandel Speciaal. I’ll just leave this here for a moment while I recover…
Viandel: A sausage dropped in batter and then deep fried.
What’s your sauce?
I thought that once I’d got to grips with the strange-looking objects in the glass fridge, I’d nailed it. But once you get your head out of the fridge, you might find that your chosen frituur has a menu above the counter with 10, 20, hell even 50 different sauces to choose from. We could probably write another post just about the sauces, but that would mean less time for…eating fries. So here are the key ones to know about. But don’t fly into a sauce-related spin if it’s too much – there’s always mayonnaise to fall back on.
- Aïoli/look – two names, one sauce. ‘Look’ is the Dutch word for garlic, but you’ll also see it called aïoli in some frituurs.
- Americaine – tomato, onion, red pepper and spices.
- Andalouse – mayonnaise, tomatoes, some spices, garlic, shallots and peppers.
- Bicky Burger – see above for the ingredients. Turns out, you don’t have to order a whole Bicky Burger as the sauce has become so famous it’s also popular for dipping your fries in too.
- Curryketchup – if you order a ‘something speciaal’ you will always get asked whether you want normal ketchup or curry ketchup, so be prepared for this question. You can also order a portion of curryketchup on its own.
- Joppie – A ‘gift’ from the Dutch, joppiesaus has a light yellow colour and a slightly sweet taste to it.
- Samurai – mayonnaise, chilli, some spices, tomatoes and pepper.
- Stoverij/stoofvlees – you might already have heard of this one as stoverij (Flemish beef stew) is a common main course served up in restaurants around town. Well, there’s a sauce version too where you’ll get fewer chunks of meat but it still has that warm juicy feel as it soaks into your chips.
- Tartaar – you don’t need to be eating fish to order mayonnaise and caper-based tartaar (tartar) sauce in Belgium.
Ghent’s best neighbourhood frituurs
- Frites Atelier, https://www.fritesatelier.com/, Groetenmarkt 20. A controversial choice, the Frites Atelier is a fancy take on a frituur. It’s the brainchild of Michelin-starred Dutch chef Sergio Herman. So there you are – two things that immediately raise any Belgian’s eyebrows: Michelin starred and Dutch. If you go here first (which you might as it’s right in the centre), just forget everything you see. But while you’re there enjoy the help-yourself truffle mayonnaise, won’t you…?
- Frituur Jozef, no website, Vrijdagmarkt. Really just known as ‘the frituur on the Vrijdagmarkt’, Jozef’s has been in business since the 90s.
- Frituur Tartaar, https://frituurtartaar.be, Heilige Geeststraat 3. A modern take on the classic frituur, Tartaar is known for using local produce like Tierenteyn mustard from the shop around the corner. Its homemade tartar sauce is good enough to name the whole place after it.
- De Gouden Saté, https://www.facebook.com/CarolineEnPeter/, Sint-Pietersplein 28. Sobering up tipsy students for decades, De Gouden Saté is probably Ghent’s most famous fry shop. Owner and local hero, Julien, passed away in 2013 and then it passed to Peter (his son-in-law) before it was put up for sale in 2016. It was headline news for several weeks as Ghent feared its days were numbered. But thankfully it was bought and it’s mostly been kept the same. Phew.
- Bollekesfrituur, no website, Terneuzenlaan 1 (just over Muidebrug). A tiny shack with red ‘bollekes’ (dots) on it, Bollekesfrituur is a one-woman show serving up the crispiest fries in northern Ghent. This is my neighbourhood favourite. It’s by no means the closest to my house, but it’s so good – we walk that little bit further.
- Tolpoort Frituur, https://www.frituurtolpoort.be/, Neuseplein 1. Right beside the Ring near Dok Noord, Tolpoort Frituur also has a shady little seating area if you need to eat your fries immediately.
- Tenderly, https://www.facebook.com/Tenderly-35722540195/, Koning Boudewijnstraat 10. A chip’s throw from St Pietersstation, Tenderly (strange name) opened as a post-war dance venue in 1947 and became a frituur in the 60s. Expect queues out the door.
- ‘t Blauwe Kotje, https://www.frituurblauwkotje.be/, Kortrijksesteenweg 681. Even people living in the Millionaires’ Quarter eat fries too 😉 ‘The Blue Shack’ is another Ghent landmark fry shop with queues out the door at the weekends.
- Emily’s, https://www.facebook.com/frituuremilys/, Zwijnaardsesteenweg 153. Nina’s local, Emily’s lets you order online. Their stoofvlees sauce comes highly recommended!
- Snack Esra, https://www.facebook.com/Esra-252722231428926/, Sint-Joriskaai 17. Right next to the bridge at Portus Ganda, Snack Esra is actually a kebab house but they also do fries and your typical frituur fare.
- De Frietketel, https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Fast-Food-Restaurant/De-Frietketel-34597147572/, Papegaaistraat 89. Known for taking care of the vegetarian fry lovers of Ghent, De Frietketel even won ‘best fast food’ from the Belgian Vegan Awards in 2019.
- You can bring your own saucepan to a lot of frituurs – especially the ones outside the city centre where it might be more acceptable to wander the streets with a pan in your hand. They will fill the pan with fries so you don’t need to waste paper and plastic bags. Yes, you can help save the environment while you eat fries! Don’t forget the lid…
- Be prepared to wait…you might think that fries are fast food but, unlike other countries where the food is already cooked and tossed into a box for you before you’ve barely finished ordering, in Belgium things are only cooked (even the chips sometimes) when someone asks for it. So it can take a while. And you do need to fry those chips twice, remember…
- Friday night might as well be called ‘fry-day night’ in Belgium. If you’re thinking about quickly popping by a frituur on your way home, you might want to plan a bit more carefully to avoid long queues.
- If you get your fries wrapped up in paper, make sure you or the frituur make a hole in the top. You do not want soggy fries.
- Just to be clear, it’s chips and the stuff in the fridge cabinet. Don’t try asking for a side salad. If you want something healthy, move along – there are plenty of vegan restaurants in Ghent too.
- A lot of Ghent’s frituurs are also on Deliveroo and TakeAway, so if you don’t want to queue, let the fries come to you.
Did we miss out another top frituur or your favourite sauce? Let us know in the comments section below!