EUROPE CANDY TRIP: 3rd Stop - Belgium

It's funny how this has morphed into a weekly event when we first started it to be a diary/scrapbook to put our occasional research in... it just happened. Which is also why we are heading in all sorts of haphazard directions - first in Poland, then the big leap to Switzerland, now skipping France to Belgium. Let's just say we're letting our taste buds lead the way :)

Why Belgium?

Got to confess that we don't know much about the country outside of its food and dessert scene, its beer and that urinating boy statue (Manneken Pis). Further research shows that the country is more than that, many of it cities are home to the world's best preserved medieval architecture, like a huge museum of a nation showcasing castles and towers (calling out to our inner Disney princess), and also a hub for adventure-seekers in the wild nature.

Skipping France, we moved from Switzerland last week to another land famous for chocolate. (Credits: Google Maps)

Some facts about Belgium 

  • Capital: Brussels
  • Capital of the European Union
  • Official languages: Dutch, French and German (Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. Brussels is effectively bilingual, so you might see both languages on shopping labels). 
  • The comic strip Tintin originated from Belgium and has been in existence for 70 years with 200 million books sold worldwide. 
  • It has the highest density of Michelin star-rated restaurants in Europe.
  • France and Germany may be known for castles, but there are more castles in Belgium per square mile than any other country.

Some places we'll like to visit

It's difficult to imagine this beautiful place in bloodshed instead of nightlights, isn't it? (Credits: Juan Rubiano)

It's difficult to imagine this beautiful place in bloodshed instead of nightlights, isn't it? (Credits: Juan Rubiano)

Brussels

... just because it is the capital. You will soon realise it's not just that, being a beautiful cosmopolitan city that combines the past with the present, as home to various European institutions (including the EU) and also historic attractions, one of the many being the Grand Place, which appears once you type Brussels in the image search bar. As one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was once a execution spot, but now it has become the landmark of Brussels. Fans of European architecture will be awed by the fine balance between historic and contemporary designs coexisting in this time capsule of a city.

Also to note is the Mannekin Pis, the renowned bronze statue of a little boy relieving himself just a short walk from the Grand Place. Check out Belgium’s quirky sense of humor from the costumes worn on him to mark various occasions, anniversaries or events.

Hohoho... who? Manneken Pis as St Niklaas -- Saint Nicholas, later known as Santa Claus. 

Bruges

Drifting down the medieval city centre on a boat -- with great scenery, people, music and food -- something I've always dreamed of. (Credits: SdosRemedios on Flickr)

Drifting down the medieval city centre on a boat -- with great scenery, people, music and food -- something I've always dreamed of. (Credits: SdosRemedios on Flickr)

Voted as a top World destination by Trip Advisor travellers, Bruges' incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture makes it one of the most exciting tourist attractions in Europe.

The medieval charm of the city of Bruges (Credit: Anguskirk on Flickr)

The medieval charm of the city of Bruges (Credit: Anguskirk on Flickr)

Bruges

With the city center closed off to cars, the historical beauty and culture of this unforgettable city can be easily explored on foot, by boat along quiet canals, or by horse-drawn carriage on cobblestoned streets. Bruges is in the shape of the canal basin so water transportation is heavily utilized with boats and ships are always there in every corner and city buildings. It's essential to take a ride on one of the tour boats around the canals - the multilingual guides provide a potted history of the city in just a few minutes - at only a few Euros, it's the best introduction to Bruges. A boat tour will show you places which are otherwise unreachable, as not every canal runs next to a street.

Ghent, boasting its famous pedestrian area that preserves the early Flemish architecture and a testament to the city's medieval might. (Credits: Tripadvisor)

Ghent, boasting its famous pedestrian area that preserves the early Flemish architecture and a testament to the city's medieval might. (Credits: Tripadvisor)

Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium (Credits: Pinterest)

Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium (Credits: Pinterest)

Ghent

If you ask a Belgian where they like to travel within their own country, many will tell you about the friendly city of Ghent. Somewhat like Bruges, it has most of the town center closed to cars, so again, water transportation here we come! Ghent is an un-touristy city filled with university students, linger-as-long-as-you-like cafes, well-priced restaurants and vibrant energy. If you travel there in July, there will be an annual ten-day Ghent Celebrations where the inhabitants go all out with theatre performances, concerts, singing, dancing, and drinking.

There are many more cities we would love to visit, like Dinant, the city of adventure/outdoor activities (a must-go for people like us who enjoy heights, kayaking, biking, lasergun games etc), best visited in winter for the thrill in the chill (cheesy much, but couldn't resist including that line), and the Belgian "capital of cool" -- Antwerp, known for its vibrant nightlife, fashion, funky bars, restaurants and numerous festivals.  

Apparently there is so many things to see and do in Belgium, such that we have forgotten to introduce the sweet treats in Belgium! 

Looks like Belgium isn't just about the historical artsy-fartsies, get wild at Dinant! (Credits: Dinant Evasion)

Looks like Belgium isn't just about the historical artsy-fartsies, get wild at Dinant! (Credits: Dinant Evasion)

Belgian waffles

Belgian waffles were initially sold as unleavened crisp cakes baked in a wafer iron, and the mix was made up of barley and oats. Waffle vendors were allowed to sell waffles outside of churches during special celebrations and on the feast days of saints. 

And did you know there were 2 types of Belgian waffles: the common Liege waffles, and rectangular Brussels waffles, some include the thinner breakfast galettes as the third type. Around the world, the Brussels waffle is more well known as the Belgian waffle. It was first introduced into America at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York by Maurice Vermersch. He introduced it into the US market as the “Belgian waffle” because most Americans did not know where Brussels was. Brussels waffles are usually served dusted with confectioner’s sugar or topped with chocolate, soft fruits, or whipped cream.  Brussels waffles were made with a thin, yeast-leavened batter which makes them lighter and their appearance is more rectangular with deeper holes and smooth edges. Liege waffles are made with a batter that is more like bread dough; thick and sticky. The dough contains chunks of sugar, which caramelize and form a crispy, crunchy, golden coating. The dough is spread/pushed into the waffle maker and the end result is uneven edges and a more dense, sweeter, and chewier waffle.

Belgian waffles in its luscious glory in Brussels (Credits: Kayla Clements on Flickr)

Belgian waffles in its luscious glory in Brussels (Credits: Kayla Clements on Flickr)

Brussels on the left, Liege on the right (Credits: Ottsworld)

Brussels on the left, Liege on the right (Credits: Ottsworld)

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A taste of Belgium in Singapore

Besides the physical shops in Singapore that sell fresh Belgian waffles, we enjoy squirrelling a stash of Belgium under our work tables, so that the Belgian goodness is always within reach. We love the traditional waffles crisps from Belgian Butters, as they have been popular since the 19th Century, and that its sugar level is just right, coupled with a crunchy texture and a rich buttery taste. The Chocolate pattisserie, is a thicker version of the waffle crisps, with half-dipped into Belgian chocolate, as depicted on the left, for people who wish to enjoy the best of both Belgium's confectionery niches -- chocolate and waffles.

Cake a way waffles are thicker than the Belgian Butters waffles, as they are from the galettes. Remember that we previously mentioned about the third type of waffles called breakfast galettes? Some have called galettes "lazy, messy, casual pies" that have to be rolled out. In this case, Cake a way's micro butter crispy galettes are the crunchier, stiffer version of the galettes, with a longer shelf life, specially meant for squirrels like us. We like to dip it into the Ovomaltine drink for a Swiss-meets-Belgian indulgence.

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Belgian Cookies 

We know we have not been showing enough love to the Belgian cookies (cause there's too many wonderful things to be talked about!) But this highly reviewed and raved line of biscuits must be introduced before ending this post. 

Established in the 1870's by Charles Delacre, the company was first known for it's Belgian chocolate. You will be pleasantly surprsied with the variety of  16 types of cookies from Delacre, of which the more known: Marquisettes, Biarritz, Russian Cigarettes, Délichoc and Matadi, forming a delicious combination of milk chocolate, black chocolate and white chocolate, as well as cinnamon cookies, coffee cookies, vanilla and brown sugar cookies. 

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Talk about being spoilt for choice, seriously.

Talk about being spoilt for choice, seriously.

All these Belgian delights can be found at Candy Empire retail stores. Seek for the nearest one to you and sail your way through the quiet waters of Belgium!