Ostend regional specialities
The diminutive local brown shrimp is a speciality of Belgian cuisine. But did you know that the City by the Sea has plenty of other treats in store for you? Manon van Aerschot (Libelle Lekker magazine) shares a list of her favourite Ostend products.
Plenty of fish in the sea
Of course, we are proud of all the goodness from the sea. Our Flemish brown shrimp are caught off the coast, up to 16 km from the lowwater mark. The shrimp are then boiled in sea water, on the boat, so they can be kept for longer. Then they are sold in the fish market, both peeled or unpeeled. I love buying a bag of fresh brown shrimp and taking it to the beach where we peel and eat them, whether with friends or family. They are even tastier when fresh from the boat!
Did you know that they also produce oysters in Ostend? For over 21 years, the Puystjens family has been farming this delicacy in Spuikom. The “Ostendaises” grow for approximately four years in metal cages until they are ready to eat. The salt in the water and the algae in Spuikom give the oysters their distinctive taste. Eat them as is, with a squeeze of lemon and a twist of black pepper.
From the land
We also have plenty of artisans who work the land. The people of West Flanders enjoy a good sandwich with ‘bloeling’. This spreadable black pudding has a mild taste and is similar to the French ‘boudin’. It is seasoned with sour apples, raw onion, sugar and nutmeg.
Another classic is the farmer’s ham from West Flanders. The round hip bone is left in the ham, giving it its typical old-fashioned shape. The ham is seasoned with juniper berries and nutmeg and then brined for 21 days.
Are you all about real food, with less fuss? Then perhaps West Flemish head cheese is your thing. The deboned meat and the rind are coarsely ground, mixed with its own jelly and delicately seasoned with pepper and nutmeg. Excellent with some good mustard on a ‘vloerpistolet’ or bread roll from Bakkerij Decock. These popular bread rolls are baked on the bottom of the oven (‘vloer’), and are easily broken in two because of the groove down the middle.
Since the Sixties, foodies who like sweet things have flocked to Bakkerij Riviera for an Ostend ‘zeebeschuit’. This biscuit was very popular with fisherman as it could be kept for longer, which also explains its name. It is made from flour, water, salt and fat. Some bakers also add raisins.
Whether you are young or old, everyone loves the ‘spletters’ or split waffles of Bakkerij Vanheste. In the old days, people used to eat them warm, with melted butter. Nowadays, they are filled with a delicious butter cream. These oval waffles are made from candy or crystal sugar, with rum and cinnamon.
And last but not least, the infamous ‘babelutten’. These sweets, which are made from candy syrup and butter, are not an official regional speciality, but to me they are a nostalgic food item. When my gran used to take me to the seaside, we would always stop at Moeder Babelutte for a bag of sweets and then eat them all with our toes in the sand. So wonderful!