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Belgium frites - what fat is used?

Lard, canola, olive oil, whale oil?
If veg. oil isn't used I'll be able to maintain my weight better, lol!

Posted by
1068 posts

Don't know, alas, but imagine it might vary by restaurant? But since the frites are served with mayo - and since there's probably a chocolate emporium right across the street from the frites place - and since the beer is so frikken tasty - I just forget all about my weight when in Belgium! :-)

Posted by
8064 posts

It is going to vary a bit by restaurant, but I doubt they are using whale oil, olive oil or lard. Probably just generic shortening or vegetable oil.

Posted by
3659 posts

As you could imagine (or could have tested), a Google search turns up plenty of answers. Aside from prosaic vegetable oils (which include the canola you mention in Canada) that are chosen for price, traditional patates frites have been cooked in beef/lard, or any other hard animal fat. I saw one reference to horse fat. My favourite, and not so hard in texture, is duck fat, very popular and costly at the gourmet sausage restaurant Wvrst in Toronto. Duck and goose fats have the advantage of withstanding very high temperatures. Whatever the frying medium, the key, experienced chefs agree, is to cook the spuds twice, at low and high heats. It's said, perhaps wishfully, that less fat is absorbed when the fat is hot.

Posted by
4674 posts

The really traditional option is beef dripping, some of the best chip stalls will finish it off with that. Are you vegetarian/vegan? I think your only real option will be to ask the stallholder what the oil is.

Posted by
4529 posts

But since the frites are served with mayo - and since there's probably a chocolate emporium right across the street from the frites place - and since the beer is so frikken tasty - I just forget all about my weight when in Belgium! :-) ^^ This! The thing is, you will walk so much on your trip, that even with all the food goodies you consume, you will at least be a wash on the weight thing. Walk enough and you might just lose some weight.

Posted by
175 posts

Yikes, I'm always telling people that google is their friend and here I am asking you instead of the G Guru. Not vegan but do not like the taste or idea of animal fats in deep-frying so I'll skip the frituurs on the corner. Perhaps I'll just mainline the
mayo...from the frying pan into the cardio ward so to speak. Thanks for the word from the straat.

Posted by
8260 posts

I had assumed it was the mayo that had made Tom so ill.

Posted by
16419 posts

Now I know why I had such spectacular results from pigging out on all that foie gras.

Posted by
262 posts

You are on vacation for heaven's sake!! Go eat and drink and try everything. As someone else said, as much walking that you will do, more than likely you will not gain weight. I seem to always loose a few pounds and I eat what ever I want.
I would never eat what I do on vacation at home. Happy Travels!

Posted by
175 posts

...I will indeed eat and drink whatever takes my fancy but as a non-meat eater I'll skip the horse fat fried potatoes! And thus no mayo either! I was feebly joking about worrying about weight gain. I've been going to Europe almost every year since 1960 and I've yet to arrive home carrying excess baggage on my body - I don't even think about
weight gain/loss - all the walking manages it for me. Thanks for all the responses.

Posted by
5375 posts

It's only ten or fifteen years ago that McDonalds/U.S. eliminated all beef tallow from their french fry oil, in response to inquiries from Southeast Asian vegetarians, as I remember. The problem was that it wasn't disclosed, not that it didn't taste good. I've been offered Duck Fat Fries and Duck Fat fried nuts in some East Coast U.S. restaurants lately. Not as good as the duck gizzard pizza in Chinon last year.

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, since everyone seems to remember my gastro-intestinal distress from a few months ago... I eat fries in Belgium fairly often, and only got sick that one time. I only mentioned it because I sourced it back to one specific frituur that is very commonly visited by foreign travelers- one of the frituurs below the Belfry in Brugge. Had I gotten sick from a small town frituur deep within, let's say, Limburg province, I wouldn't have mentioned it, as nobody else (except perhaps Tim from NJ) on this website will probably be anywhere near the vicinity. And I find mayonaise repulsive, so I never order it with my fries. However, I like many of the other sauces they have available (most frituurs offer about 10 or so different sauces), so that may have been the source of my illness. A dairy-based curry sauce, to specify. Back to the original question. Although I don't know for certain which oil, or more likely, combination of oils, many frituurs and restaurants use, I know that in Belgian supermarkets, the oil marketed specifically for making fries is solid at room temperature. So, that tells you that it's polyunsaturated, and therefore may contain some animal lard (whereas if it was liquid at room temperature, that would rule out animal fat). Either way, though... there's no way to make deep-frying a health food. Although the choice of fat can have influences on long term cardiovascular health for people who consume it regularly, both vegetable and animal oil are calories bombs anyway. If you're concerned about your weight, this is not the food to order. As for the sauces, if you want a topping that's a little bit less heavy, consider (if they have it) zigeuner sauce, which is a sharp red-pepper based sauce, or pili-pili or loempia sauce, which is similar to the duck sauce Chinese restaurants in the US serve with fried wantons. And most frituurs also carry ketchup.

Posted by
31435 posts

mimi, If you don't want to try the Fries in Belgium, you could always substitute the new Burger King low calorie and fat reduced French Fries. I don't know what type of oil they're deep fried in, but apparently the lower fat and calories is due to the fact that they don't absorb as much oil as the regular fries. In Canada they're called "Gratifries" and in the U.S. "Satisfries". Buon Appetito!

Posted by
951 posts

To our vegetarian dismay, I had read a NT times article about Flemmish Frites prior to our honeymoon in Belgium. The article states duck fat is used. We pretended to not read that and indulged anyways, maybe the only time we cheated on our personal crusade to never eat anything with a mother or anus.
And Belgium was my first European vacation where I gained weight, thanks to beer, frites, chocolate, waffels. In the 8 nights we were there I came back 8 lbs heavier.

Posted by
2349 posts

Tom-you didn't realize there was a forum just based on you? In a current thread we discuss your obsession with an Italian song, but your intestinal health is a favorite topic! And, Rebecca-I don't doubt that some people suffer when they eat foods high in fat. But if everyone ran for the toilet whenever they ate french fries, there would be no golden arches. Throughout the world, in all cultures, people love things fried in some sort of fat. Especially starchy things like potatoes, bread, dumplings, funnel cakes. That love of fried food may not serve us well now, but helped keep the human race alive throughout lean years. At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by
864 posts

I you ever come across frites cooked in duck fat and sprinkled with truffle salt whip out your wallet go for it. Amazing. Very yummy even without the truffle salt but do try a bit of mayo with them. It's one of those odd combinations where the sum exceeds the parts - like chocolate and port.

Posted by
8192 posts

Rebecca, I thought your point was a very good one! I'm a vegetarian (agree with you Kelly!) and hate deep-fat fried foods, don't care much about chocolate either, but pastries... omg.. Love em!

Posted by
1 posts

I know "traditionally" frites in Belgium were cooked in beef tallow. What about now? Can someone confirm if majority (or many) of the frite stores still use beef tallow or have switched to other oils?

Posted by
12040 posts

"What about now?" I can't answer this question exactly, but here's a round-about attempt. If you wander through a Belgian supermarket, you'll see that the fat usually sold specifically for deep frying is solid at room temperature. If it was liquid, we could probably rule out any animal products. Being solid doesn't necessarily mean it must contain animal fat, but it makes that a higher probability. The price for an order of frietjes is usually pretty cheap, so I think we can rule out an expensive fat like duck or goose. And Belgium's Moslem population apparently has no restrictions on eating the fries, so of the two cheapest animal fats, we can probably eliminate pork. So, my guess would be beef, probably with some amount of vegetable blend.