Returning home for a visit and need to take gifts? Got friends to stay who want local produce as souvenirs? Beer and chocolates are the obvious choices, but you can also get them all over Belgium. Here’s our guide to 5 uniquely Ghentian products that you can buy, what their history is, where to get them and how much you can expect to pay.
Something for the non Belgian-beer drinkers, Roomer is an elderflower spirit (15% alcohol). Drink it either with a few ice cubes as an aperitif, or topped up with lemonade or soda water for a long refreshing drink. A few elderflower petals floating in the top give it a graceful look.
It’s produced in Ghent itself, and visits of the factory to see how it’s made can be arranged. It also has a distinctive shaped bottle – a long narrow neck and ball-shaped base. If you keep your eyes open you’ll spot Ghent bars and restaurants using the elegant bottles as decoration. You don’t need to go to any special souvenir shop to buy Roomer. It’s available in most supermarkets and in two sizes (50cl and 25cl). You can expect to pay around 13-15 euros for 50cl.
Otherwise known as ‘cuberdons’, these purple, nose (neus)-shaped sweets are a fiercely debated delicacy in Ghent. One story goes that the technique of a firm crust and syrupy middle was discovered by accident by Ghent pharmacist De Vynck in 1873. There are other stories about the recipe being discovered in Bruges, but of course – if anyone asks – stick to the Ghent one.
Nowadays you’ll find cuberdon-inspired sauce, ice-cream, you-name-it. But try the original product first by taking your family and friends to the Groentenmarkt where carts compete for your business. The sweets are sold in bags, and you can pick up 250g for 5 euros. You should try and eat them within 8 weeks. After that they start to harden and lose their gooey appeal.
Sneuwballen (literally ‘snowballs’) are made by the Larmuseau confectioners, until 2018 a family-run business founded in Ghent in 1913. They’re only produced between September and April and they consist of light and fluffy creamy balls dipped in chocolate. They are then covered in icing sugar to complete the snowy look.
In 2018 they opened 2 official shops, the closest to the centre at Koning Albertlaan 63. But you can also buy a box at the little kiosk on the square where Volderstraat meets Mageleinstraat. Because of the ingredients, they don’t keep for long. Because of the taste, they don’t remain uneaten for long…
The fame of Tierenteyn mustard is equal to that of the shop that sells it on the Groentenmarkt: Vve Tierenteyn Verlent. The smooth, pale yellow mustard is pumped from the cellar where it is made up into a large barrel on the shop floor, so that when it’s poured into a pot, you’ll know you’re getting it fresh. They even have a scheme that if you bring an empty pot back, you can get it refilled and pay less. A fresh 90ml pot will cost you 2 euros.
The story of the mustard dates back to the early 19th century when the mustard seeds used to be crushed by hand using a pestle and mortar, making the cost of it only something the wealthier Gentenaars could afford. Over 200 years later, and the technology has come on a bit. Now you can expect to find Tierenteyn mustard on lots of menus in Ghent restaurants – either as an accompaniment to the classic kaasblokjes (cheese cubes) or in a cooked dish.
In case you didn’t know, Ganda is actually the old Celtic name for the city of Ghent. Ganda ham is proudly made with only three ingredients: pork, sea salt….and time (around 2 years of it). What started out as a small, 1950s family butcher in Wetteren, just south-east of Ghent, Ganda is now a major manufacturer of the cured meat, and other products.
You can buy vacuum packs of Ganda ham just at a normal supermarket. But it’s not cheap – a pack of just 100g will probably cost around 4 euros. But look for the blue label with the red stamp on it to know you’re getting the real thing. It’s also something you mind find on a portie gemengd sharing platter in a typical cafe. And if you want to get an even better idea of what Ganda ham means to the locals, then check out our post about that infamous time when a university building got covered in it…
Have you come across any other typical produce that make good souvenirs or gifts when you go home? Let us know in the comments section below.
Last updated: July, 2018