When it comes to the mainstays of Belgian cuisine, moules-frites or moules et frites — a main dish consisting of mussels and French fries — is certainly a notable one. From the Belgian coasts to the streets of Brussels, most are familiar with the large steaming pots full of mussels coated with a white wine sauce, accented with fresh herbs and vegetables. Aside from its ingredients, this dish and mussels at large have become Belgian specialties — and it’s all steeped in history and geography.
A National Staple
As you may or may not be aware, mussels are extremely popular and served nearly everywhere in Belgium — and have been for quite some time. While they are enjoyed all over the world, there have been numerous disputes as to the exact origins of the dish. Akin to the origin of fries, this filter-feeder was at the center of a stormy row between Belgium and France.
To settle the diatribe, historians have dug into a 1781 Flemish manuscript recounting the story of the dish. Similar to the modern-day Belgian specialty, mussels were prepared in Belgian homes, especially during the winter when there was a shortage of fish. Abundant along the coasts of the North Sea, they were a cheap alternative and quickly adopted by Belgians.
The Willebroek Canal — which connected Brussels to the River Shelde, on to Antwerp, and finally the North Sea — arrived at the Place Sainte-Catherine. It’s no wonder Belgians developed a taste for les moules! Once thought of as a poor man’s meat, mussels are now sometimes referred to as “black gold,” given their high demand.
Part Culinary Classic, Part Blank Slate
A common recipe for mussels is a white wine sauce with shallots, butter, and parsley. However, there are myriad ways to enjoy a mussels meal. Consider the moules à la crème, where the stock is thickened with flour and cream. Or, the moules à la bière, where the sauce contains beer in lieu of white wine. The choices do not end there, however, as chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies alike have trailblazed their way into a wide array of varying flavors, dynamic pairings, and cuisinal flair at large.
At Parlay Sporting Club + Kitchen, we believe in putting a flavorful twist on tradition and dishing up a new sort of tried-and-true. Whether you’re a mussels fanatic, ready to expand your culinary palette, or want to try these delights for the first time, our establishment is the place to be! We invite you to learn more about our signature Belgian style mussels or check our full menu today.