My limited foray into cuisines across the globe keeps me away from engaging with chefs or experts from different nations, lest the ignorance gets revealed. And if lesser known celebrities are around, it is unlikely I will come to know about that since there isn’t as much craze around to highlight such arrival or images in social media to make aware the commoners like me to get to know about such arrivals.
Hence, when a friend of mine, who mistakenly assumes my abilities around food, updated me about the presence of someone from Belgium, who is an architect by profession and cook by passion, I gathered enough courage to confirm my presence for the same.
Let us explore the food first.
The set meal had a simple flow and was attractively priced too if one goes for the full course
Starter: Belgian Mixed Meat Roll
Main Dish: Vol Au Vent
Dessert: Belgian Waffle Burger
One had an option to choose one or two items as well but pricing was such that the set meal made sense.
Belgian Mixed Meal Roll reminded me about the crunchy and flaky just made patties that we often have. However, it was roll shaped here and to retain that flaky outer layer in a cylinder shape was even more intriguing. Inside the thin crust was soft filling of minced pork and beef (one had an option of pork & chicken as well). With egg as the only binding agent, the taste of pork and beef mince stayed unadulterated. The meat retained its granular texture to make you feel the meat perfectly, yet was neatly packed. Subtle smell of Indian spices did emanate but not strong enough to subdue the taste of cayenne pepper that was so beautifully blended. The sweet chili garlic sauce remained a silent spectator as I avoided diluting the sheer taste and feel of the mince.
With very limited knowledge, I vaguely remembered Vol Au Vent to be an appetizer in French cuisine. Hence was intrigued to find it as main dish here. Later I came to know from the cook about the same as shared later down below. While in Belgium, this dish comprises of a whole lot of fried potatoes and a puff pastry filled with semi-viscous white sauce having chicken, meatballs and mushrooms, here, there was a portion of parsley rice and also the gravy served separately as well alongside the puff pastry and reduced portion of fries, keeping in mind our love for rice. The pastry is made hollow and the chicken, meatballs and mushroom gravy is poured into it. I must appreciate that the pastry crust retained its crunchiness even after the filling was poured into it. Its soft light consistency connects back to its name – vol au vent means “windblown” in French. I was awed when I came to know that she had made the puffs as well after arriving here.
For someone who is not really a dessert person, the Belgian Waffle Burger turned out to be the man of the Match. It was simply too good, something I haven’t had before. The crunchiness of the waffle (and it tasted amazingly delicious) greatly complimented the crunchiness of the chocolate bar in between the two waffles and mingled so well with the cream and chocolate sauce that oozed out with every bite. Was there something different about the waffle?
Conversation with Adeline – the lady behind the food
Me: How is the experience of doing this kind of an event for a day here in Kolkata
Adeline: I am loving it. Belgian food is not widely known and such occasions help spread the cuisine of my place. More interesting is to slightly modify it for places where, they maynot like exactly the way we have it.
Me: Have you done some such modifications in this food?
Adeline: Some bit of it. I have added a touch of Indian spices to the meat balls since Indians love the meat with some spices. Also the rice – I am told Indians love rice. But in Belgium, there is no rice in the main dish. It has whole of fries and the puff pastry.
Me: Belgium has significant influence of French and German cuisines. What’s unique about Belgian cuisine?
Adeline: True, it has influence of French, German & Holland cuisines but there are certain unique ones like Flemish Stew, which is made of beer, and some other dishes where we use beer – sour white beer, brown beer. Flemish stew is with brown beer but we have some nice chicken stews with sour white beer.
Me: Beer you use is all local Belgian beer?
Adeline: Yes, Belgium is famous for beer and we use beer made there only in local breweries.
Me: I loved beer when I was in Germany but not been to Belgium.
Adeline: (laughs)- very politely she says – Belgian beer is something else. I wouldn’t say Germany has very good beer. We have outstanding brown beer. You know Trappist Beer? This is a famous brown beer brewed in our monasteries.
Me: In Monasteries?
Adeline: Yes – the monks brew the beer but not for profits. Whatever money they get, goes back to the upkeep of the monastery. It is an old practice where most monasteries had breweries to sustain the monks from the money obtained by selling them.
Adeline: Also some dishes are anyway available here (Tintin & the Brussels Club) like Beef Stew and they make it quite well. And this is what I love about this city – openness to explore cuisines from various places.
Me: True – it went through so many invasions and mingling of cultures.
Adeline: Yes – but I also noticed the differences between other cities in India (couple of other metros I have been to) and Calcutta
Me: What are those?
Adeline: I find the place far more comfortable. It is slightly more relaxed, in line with how we live, fun loving, people here truly love food. There isn’t a mad rush like the two other cities I have been to. Difficult to really express; maybe the openness towards this kind of cuisine, towards me. I never felt as welcome or comfortable in the other two cities.
Me: Did you get all your ingredients in this city?
Adeline: yes. Except that I carried Cayenne pepper and waffle. Rest all ingredients I could get here. For some, I modified a bit like the cream, which is much fuller here. I had to tone it down. I wasn’t too sure about Cayenne Pepper and hence carried it. And waffle I wanted to carry from there. We have two kinds of waffles there – Brussels Waffles and Liege Waffles.
Me: You have chosen these three dishes – why?
Adeline: I wanted to prepare whatever is most authentic there. Vol Au Vent is one of the most popular main dishes in Belgium. You will get it almost everywhere. Flemish Stew is another such dish but since it is available here in the regular menu, I avoided that.
The starter – I don’t know what it is exactly called in English, but in Belgium we have a culture frequenting eateries that serves fries, fried meats – the sausage roll came from that but I tried adapting it a bit to suit the taste here. Generally sausage roll is very popular there. Some have that as breakfast also. For the dessert I thought of doing the waffle burger since Belgium is famous for waffles. Since these are for dessert, I have chosen the Liege waffles since they have pieces of sugar and is sweet. You will get them in streets of Belgium – people add chocolate and sauce and have it. I felt that people in Kolkata like sweets. And hence chose that. Brussels waffle is bigger & lighter, and not sweet. It is like a square / rectangle and is mostly served in restaurants.
And on that sweet note the conversation ended at Tintin & The Brussels Club