Escavèche de Chimay, a protected culinary dish
This regional gastronomic speciality, impossible to miss in the south of Hainaut, has just been awarded the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label by the European authorities.
It is a dish previously made with eel, but over the years it has been prepared with pike, trout or other fish caught in local rivers; escavèche is eaten cold in a jellied, vinegar sauce containing onions. This know-how, passed down from generation to generation by the people of Chimay, is now protected with its entry in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The Jurade Princière de Chimay, the association that protects local heritage, is delighted with this PGI label, because escavèche is the town's third flagship product, after beer and cheese. And the last three local producers have been fighting for this recognition for years. As Françoise Meulemeester, one of the producers, explains, "There was historical research, work on the quality and conservation of escavèche. All this was set out in specifications so it could be presented to the European Commission."
The origin of the recipe dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when Belgium was still under Spanish rule. The occupier had introduced this process for preserving fish to Chimay to feed its troops stationed in every province of the country. The recipe has not changed over the centuries, and neither has its packaging, which remains stoneware pots.
This very refreshing dish can be enjoyed as soon as the good weather returns.