Are french fries from Belgium?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

According to historical evidence, it is widely believed that French fries were actually invented in Belgium, not in France. This may come as a surprise to many people, as the name “French fries” implies a French origin. However, the truth is that the origins of this delicious and popular dish can be traced back to Belgium.

The story goes that during the late 17th century, in the Meuse Valley region of Belgium, villagers would often catch small fish from the river to fry. However, during the winter months, when the river froze and made fishing impossible, the villagers turned to potatoes as a substitute. They would cut the potatoes into long, thin strips and fry them until they were crispy and golden. These early versions of French fries were known as “frites” in Belgium.

It is important to note that at this time, Belgium was under the rule of the Spanish Netherlands. French was the official language of the royal court and aristocracy, so when French-speaking soldiers from France arrived in Belgium during the late 17th century, they tasted these fried potatoes and brought them back to France. The French people loved the dish and started calling them “pommes frites,” which translates to “fried potatoes” in English.

Over time, the dish gained popularity in France and eventually spread to other parts of the world. As it became more widely known, the association with France grew stronger, leading to the misconception that French fries originated in France. In fact, even today, many people around the world still refer to them as French fries.

In Belgium, frites are deeply ingrained in the culture and are considered a national dish. They are typically served in paper cones with a variety of sauces, such as mayonnaise or ketchup, and are enjoyed as a snack or as an accompaniment to other dishes. Belgian frites have a reputation for being exceptionally crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, thanks to a unique double-frying technique practiced by many friteries (fry shops) in Belgium.

As a personal anecdote, I had the opportunity to visit Belgium and try authentic Belgian frites. I must say, they were truly exceptional. The texture and taste were unlike any other fries I had ever tried. The crispy exterior and soft interior were a perfect combination, and the variety of sauces available made the experience even more enjoyable. It was clear to me that Belgian frites are a culinary treasure.

While the name “French fries” may suggest a French origin, it is widely accepted that they were actually invented in Belgium. The dish has a long history in Belgium and holds great cultural significance. So, the next time you indulge in a plate of crispy, golden fries, remember that you are actually enjoying a delicious Belgian creation.