If you didn't know, French fries are actually not French. Apparently, they're Belgian. But you have to find that out yourself.
It usually goes down like this: you're roaming through Belgium and/or the Netherlands, you're tired and hungry, but you don't wanna spend big money. You spot a fries shop, get puzzled by the queue – it's just fries, damn it – but you join the line. Minutes later (after a brief dilemma about the dip) you're holding a paper cone full of crispy goodness. You bite a chip and then – MAGIC HAPPENS!
They're not your regular fast-food chain potato fries. Belgian fries are golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The variety of dips tells a story of its own (I'll give you recipes for a Belgian and a Dutch dip, respectively).
They say that Belgian fries were invented in the 17th century, in the basin of the river Meuse. The river froze, so the locals couldn't catch fish. They decided to fry potatoes the way they would usually fry the fish, and the rest is history.
In this part of the world, fries are a part of the cultural heritage. They're also a most prominent street food. But what makes them so special?
Belgian fries recipe
The proper Belgian fries should be fried in animal fat (either lard or beef tallow). Animal fat makes food crispy and doesn't get absorbed in it too easily. They should also be fried twice: the first round makes the fries soft on the inside, the second one brings the crust. You should also be exact with the temperature: use either a fryer with adjustable temperatures or a kitchen thermometer if you're making your fries in the pan. It's perfectly safe to use the same fat for both rounds of frying.
I usually make big amounts of fries.
Last time it went like this:
- 2.5 kg red potatoes
- 800 g lard
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 cm thick fries. Or thicker, really. Just make sure they're even. (The ones depicted here are not that thick, but they are a result of a team effort.)
Use red potatoes or any other kind that doesn't go soft when cooked.
First round: cook the fries for 6 minutes at 130-140° Celsius. Put them in a strainer, shake a bit (to remove the excess fat) and let it rest for at least ten minutes. (You can let it rest for hours if you're expecting guests. Or if you're throwing a fries-party. That's what I do.)
After that, your fries should look somewhat like this:
Second round: immediately before serving, cook your fries for 1.5 to 3 minutes at 165-170° C. This will make them golden brown and crunchy on the outside. Return them to the strainer, shake, salt and shake some more.
Serve warm, with a dip of choice. But forget about ketchup! Belgian fries are usually eaten with mayonnaise, but there's also a variety of other dips. Scroll down for my two favorites!
Andalouse sauce recipe
It's maybe even better than mayo. It's an upgraded mayo, to be precise. You can get store-bought andalouse at certain parts of the world but it's not as good. It lacks both a tang and spiciness of the homemade version.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously. You can cover the sauce with something and put it into a refrigerator for an hour or so, just to be sure that all the flavors have combined properly. Then dip your fries. Resist the urge to fill a bathtub with this sauce and swim in it, cause it will certainly burn.
- 2 dl mayo (kudos if you make your own)
- 1 tbsp green chili, minced
- 1 tbsp red chili, minced
- 1 tbsp onion, minced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 stp salt
Simple satay sauce recipe
Peanut butter is somewhat a national dish of the Netherlands. Cough... colonies... cough... The Dutch call it pindakaas (peanut cheese) and eat it quite a lot. So, no wonder that they put it on top of fries as well. The most common form of peanut butter dip is satay sauce. If you combine satay sauce, mayo and freshly chopped onion on top of your fries, that's called oorlog. Oorlog means war! But war fries are much tastier than they sound.
Everybody looks me weird when I order them. Maybe they don't expect a foreigner to like something like that? Here's a simple satay sauce recipe. Try it with fries, you won't regret it. If you do, you can always use it for meat.
Fry garlic and onion with a squeeze of oil. Add 100 ml water and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and some water and cook until the sauce thickens.
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 garlic, minced
- some oil
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp peanut butter
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp lemon juice