Belgian Waffles Misunderstood
When you think of Belgium, most Americans think of Belgian waffles and the large heavily loaded breakfast time that grace so many of our morning menus in the U.S. However, if you have ever visited Belgium, this American breakfast version pales in comparison to the waffles sold in Belgium, where it is actually a traditional street food eaten with your hands. In Belgium, the treat is the waffle itself and not a calorie-laden meal served with gallons of syrup. It is not a vehicle for toppings and should be cooked and eaten fresh, not packaged in stores for weeks with preservatives.
A little history about the Belgian waffle shows that it made its first American arrival at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. But it was at the 1964-65 World’s Fair hosted in Queens, N.Y that Belgian native Maurice Vermersch and his family made the waffle’s popularity skyrocket. Originally known as the Brussels waffle, named for the capital city from which it comes, the crisp-on-the-outside, airy-on-the-inside waffle was served two ways: the traditional fashion (plain) and with a slight embellishment of freshly whipped cream and just-sliced strawberries (as shown above, minus the bling). The demand was so great that the family had to hire a team of 10 people just to slice the strawberries— this doesn’t account for those whipping the cream, piping that whipped cream or cooking up the waffles on the 24 machines they had running.
And so, the Belgian waffle was born as they were called Brussels Waffles. The Vermersch family was very adamant about maintaining the proper way to eat them. MariePaule Vermersch, the daughter of Maurice, recounts the tale of her mother refusing forks and knifes to paying customers at the Fair because that’s not how you eat them on the streets of Belgium. The Brussels is only one of the waffles loved in Belgium. Some would even say it’s the inferior of the two. The one that’s lesser known outside of its home country is the aforementioned Liege waffle.
Today, Belgian waffles in the United States resemble more like pancakes that have been cooked in a waffle iron. They’re not prepared from the delicately-balanced batter that ensures a crisp, airy waffle. And since the Americanized Belgian waffle is sub-par in flavor, it’s been garnished and embellished to compensate. If made properly, you can just enjoy the authentic Belgian waffles alone.
Another type of waffle is the Liege waffle which is quite different than the Brussels version. It comes from the city of Liege in the Wallonia region of Belgium and is made with a dough similar to that of brioche. Pearl sugar, which basically looks like regular sugar on steroids, is mixed into the dough; when cooked on the iron, the pearls melt and caramelize forming big bites of crisp, browned sugar. It’s a denser, sweeter, chewier waffle and make any rainy day better. The Liege waffles are sold on the streets everywhere, near train stations, grocery store parking lots, fairs, and enjoyed with your hands and nothing else. Belgians prefer not to mask the sweet flavor and beloved texture of the waffle with toppings. Once you have tried the Liege waffles, you’ve truly experienced Belgium.
Here at Brussels Bistro in Laguna Beach, we bring you a slice of heaven with Belgian waffles in its original glorious form. Whether you crave for a mid afternoon snack or an amazing ending to your dinner, our Belgian waffles are authentically delicious. Here’s a peek at our Waffle menu and we hope that it will bring you closer to Belgium.