Thursday, November 15, 2012

Belgian cuisine: Fritkot Festival in Brussels

Photo © Tony Le Duc
I told you already, the fries business is serious in Belgium. No wonders why there are so much 'Fritkots' (of 'Friteries') in Brussels. Cravers can even get an app to find the best 49 Fritkots in Brussels! But there is more to it...
Brussels' year-long food festival is as ambitious and wacky as the name – Brusselicious – suggests, with events taking place everywhere from a gourmet tram to a restaurant suspended above the city, not to mention a tour of the best frites in town.                                         
John Brunton, The Guardian.

Why the Belgian chips, miscalled French fries, are better than anywhere else? Probably because it's a passion. And also because they're prepared in a very specific way:

- Use Bintje potatoes;
- hand-peeled & -cut them into sticks (size? about the girth of a lady's finger);
- use 100% beef fat;
- fry them at 160°C until they're pale but cooked through;
- leave them to drain and cool down;
- re-fry at 175 °C until golden and crispy.

Brusselicious Cone + 1€ = Fries.
Photo © EDanhier
With Brusselicious 2012, the Brussels-Capital Region has decided to showcase every step of the gourmet journey — from product ingredients to the finished delight on our plate. That's why they organize different events as the Fritkot Festival from November 1st until December 4th 2012.

This is a celebration of the Belgian product that the Frenchies love so much that they even try to make it their own. Anyway, by picking up an empty cone in one of the VisitBrussels tourist offices or getting one through street-marketing in airports, train stations or traffic lights; the consumers can then go to one of the 20 participating fritkots (see map below) and get the cone filled with fries for 1€.



The reward: a giant cone of legs.
Photo © VISITBRUSSELS
People often queue up there, mouths watering in anticipation, before finally getting hold of their paper cones overflowing with golden, salted and crispy fries. Of course, they often add a large dollop of sauce. The first bite is followed by a blissful silence, which speaks volumes for the quality of the occasion. 

The point is also to vote for the best fritkot in Brussels, which will then be awarded a weird cone full of people legs. Kinda conceptual. But it might serve as a eye-catching attraction for the lucky fritkot. Each voting consumer has a chance to win a party for him/her and 20 friends at the winning fritkot ;)

FRITERIE MARTIN
For me (and the Lonely Planet), one of the best fritkot in Belgium was Fritland. But it isn't participating in the festival. So, I wanted to try out the Friterie Martin, supposed to be nearby my flat, at Place Saint-Josse. It is a very famous institution created in 1931, which Martin Aspers took over in 1970...until he closed down in 2009 (the poor man was 70 years old), which created a shock for the locals. The thing is that he was pealing his bintje potatoes himself, giving his fries a golden color and a crispy and podgy taste, but never too salty! Eventually in 2011, Zoila Palma Altamirano, a 37 years old Ecuadorian woman (moved in Belgium in 2003) fulfilled all the specific requirements (appropriate training, type of oil and potatoes used, the accompaniments, etc.) of the paper posted on the fritkot by the Saint-Josse Municipality which wanted to keep the Friterie Martin open, as it is considered a Saint-Josse tradition (source: Lalibre.be).

Palma and the other participants for the launch of the Fritkot Festival.
Oct. 23rd, 2012 - Place Royale. Photo © EDanhier
However, if you look for Friterie Martin on the Place St-Josseplein as stated on Brusselicious website, you won't find anything but Friterie St-Josse - Chez Palma. Here she is! Palma, serves her fries with other accompaniments (as the traditional frikandel) to the people used to the old Martin. One night, I finally went there with a big hunger! I was delighted.

Fries from "Chez Palma".
Although it was cheap, it tasted really good. And Palma was really nice! She made the waiting time a bit shorter than usual. Of course, she uses sauces from the famous quality brand "La William", as lots of other fritkots. As a good neighbor but mostly because it deserves it, I voted for Friterie Martin, alias Chez Palma (it's becoming harder and harder to follow, right?) for the best fritkot ;) I wanna go back there with 20 friends!
Obama should pay a visit to one of the 5,000 Fritkots in Belgium?

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