One of the things that is hard to find in Belgium is a traditional Belgian restaurant. (While you can find many Italian or Greek Restaurants.) There are of course some traditional dishes that you can get almost everywhere in Belgium, but most of the menus will be mixed with dishes from other countries as well. One of the dishes that you can find almost everywhere in Belgium is the traditional Stoverij or Stoofvlees as we call it at home. It is one of the first things I think of when people ask me about THE Belgian dish.
This word literally translates in English to "stewed meat" and often is referred to as Flemish beef stew. And even though the word sounds very wide and covers a lot of different stewed meats, if you ask for it in a restaurant they won't ask you which stewed meat you mean. For us stoofvlees can only mean one thing and I have never met someone that doesn't like it. If my mother and I would let meal choices up to my dad and brother we would eat this every Sunday, of course together with fries.
It is usually made in a stone stew pot and as it is known in English as "Flemish beef stew", the main ingredient is of course beef. It is cooked on a low firer for a long time together with beer, thyme, bayleaf, pepper, salt and other spices. And of course you can't forget to add the slice of bread with mustard on top. It might sound strange, but it makes it delicious. The flavor of the stew will chance as you use different beers, it might be a long journey if you want to try all of the Belgian beers in Stoofvlees. But it's one more excuse to eat more Stoofvlees.
As I mentioned above, this Flemish beef stew is available almost everywhere and all throughout the year. It could be a hot summer day and Belgian people would go to the frituur (a French fries stand) to order "Stoofvlees Friet" (Flemish beef stew with French fries). Don't forget to drink to enjoy a nice beer alongside this dish. In the picture you can see in the header we made a version with mushrooms and carrots in it, together with some fries (and mayonaise of course).
The perfect place and moment to eat this for me would be on a cold and chilly day in Bruges. The atmosphere of the old and beautiful city mixed with the warmth of the stew and a nice beer is the perfect way to enjoy it.
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