Aarschot, capital of frites culture?


We have already sung the praises of one of our national dishes, frites, on FOB. What is new is that three authentic chip shops were recently declared protected monuments. That, of course, deserves an extra mention.

Chip shops can be found in all types, sizes, materials, and colours but not smells. They are distinctive architectural features that are gradually disappearing from the street scene. In the late 1950s, there were some 20,000 scattered all over the country; now there are barely 4,500. On behalf of the competent minister, the Heritage Agency had to select the most authentic ones among the 75 candidate chip shops and grant them protected status.

The criteria for being recognised as a "heritage chip shop" were quite rightly stringent. Location, appearance, age, interior design and style, as well as the enthusiasm of the chip fryers determined eligibility. And the three chosen outlets certainly met the conditions! The first serves its fries made of home-cut potatoes in the original pointed bag in a twisted aluminium setting, on a square in Aarschot; the second is housed in a genuine bus close to the train station in the East Flemish town of Sint-Lievens-Houtem; number three conducts its business in a charming little chalet that adorns the area around the church. Their specialities, such as sauces and snacks, are worth mentioning too.

In line with the frites culture, three chip shops are now claiming UNESCO protection to preserve a chunk of popular culture for posterity.