And here I always thought it was “Muscles from Brussels” – referring to the 80s/90s action hero, Jean-Claude Van Damme…
But no. It’s actually “Mussels from Brussels”- ja, mussels, like the things you eat! Turns out mussels is like Belgium’s national dish. I was puzzled by this at first, because they’re not really known for their seaside destinations and Brussels certainly aint anywhere close to any shoreline. But apparently they ship them in from the the North Sea. And although the “Mussels from Brussels” saying became quite popular, they are actually served all over Belgium.
I actually woulda thought chocolate is their national dish. That’s certainly what I know Belgium for. But I guess that was just me…
You’ll find mussels in season from September to February and they are traditionally served in a large steaming pot with some kind of savoury broth, along with a side portion of fries and some homemade mayo.
En route from Rock Werchter to Paris, we had a very quick stopover in Brussels, so we figured we’d take the opportunity to duck out of the train station for a spot of lunch. Everyone was totally obsessed with trying the mussels. Me on the other hand, not so much, cause I don’t really eat mussels. But I was happy to at least give it a small taste to see what all the fuss was about.
We settled in at a little cafe across the steet from the train station:
The restaurant had different options, from garlic to white wine & they were selling it at 21 euros per serving. Yes, that’s quite expensive when one converts that into rands. But at least it was big enough for two people to share. Lemme show you:
I had a very small taste, and for me personally, it’s still not my thing. But the table overall really loved them, so it was definitely a successful outing.
According to the Visit Belgium website, the most famous restaurant in Brussels in Chez Leon where they sell a whopping half a ton of mussels a day! That’s a crap load of mussels… even more than Jean-Claude could ever manage hey. 😉
So there you have it folks. If you ever find yourself in Belgium – order the mussels NOT the muscles.