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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

French fries or Vlaamse frites? (Τηγανιτές πατάτες της Βόρειας Ευρώπης)

During our recent travels, we got as far north to try the famous Vlaamse frites, the Belgian version of French fries (which we ended up eating in Amsterdam instead of somewhere in Brussels, due to the circumstances we found ourselves in at the time).


Vlaamse frites in Amsterdam, from the Manneken Pis outlet near the Central Station. The cone is a traditional way to serve fried potatoes in Northern Europe. 

Most of the ready-cut potatoes for frying or oven-baking are not actually cut as thickly as Vlaamse frites - most of the time, they resemble French fries instead, if being used for frying, or potato wedges, if they are destined for the oven. Vlaamse frites are not so well known as French fries.

The tastiest fried potatoes are those that have been fried twice. My parents owned a fish and chip shop, and throughout my teens, I watched my father preparing potatoes for deep-frying in the vats. Vlaamse frites (apparently the original French fries) are closer to the kind of fried potatoes we used to cook at the shop - thick cut, double-fried, in beef tallow. After the fat had been used two or three times, my father would empty the vats and store the used fat in large drums which were then towed away by a company that worked in the processing of such products.

Naturally, I don't use beef fat in my cooking; we only use olive oil because it's cheap and plentiful here in Crete, not to mention healthier. You can make really good French fries or Vlaamse frites by double-frying freshly cut potatoes and using olive oil.

Although I don't own many single-use kitchen gadgets, since our Northern Europe holiday, I invested in a poffertje pan, a waffle maker, and just recently, a potato chipper. This little gadget is something I picked up for a friend in the UK (after he couldn't find one there), so I bought one for myself too. It is appropriate for making French fries which are cut into little sticks...

These potatoes have been cut by hand. My very small friteuse - a remnant of my single days - is perfect for cooking a single serving.

... but they don't make good Vlaamse frites, which are cut more thickly. I prefer Vlaamse frites to French fries, as they are closer to the size of Greek freshly-cut potatoes for frying.

Patates tiganites (fried potatoes), sprinkled with oregano, served at a souvlatsidiko in Rethimno.
So far, I haven't found a potato chipper that cuts fries more thickly, but the thought of filling my kitchen cupboards with more single-use objects makes me feel uncomfortably materialistic. I shall just continue to cut them by hand.

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