Belgian Frites with Cheese Sauce

Fries lovers, listen up! We all know that the Belgians make some amazing frites – fried to perfection in tasty beef dripping… We also know that the Belgians have hundreds of different sauces and condiments to accompany their frites… But did you know that in the town of Arlon they have their very own, special frites sauce?!

The sauce fromage originated in Arlon and is only served in Arlon and its direct vincinity (they say you won’t find it anywhere outside a 50km radius in Belgium!).

It all stared in the friterie place de l’Yser, in the 1980s. The owner liked cheese so much that he added some grated cheese on top of his frites. His father, who was a cook at the army mess in Arlon, then came up with the idea to create a cheesy sauce to accompany the frites.

The sauce is pretty straightforward: a bechamel base made from butter, flour and milk, is combined with gruyère cheese and a good grating of nutmeg, served hot to accompany the frites.

I’ve first had the joy of discovering this dish at the fête du Maitrank in Arlon. After a few glasses of Maitrank, I needed some food to line the stomach, and I stumbled upon a long queue at the Friterie du Cerf. Here I was first told about the ‘incontournable sauce fromage’ (the inevitable cheese sauce). I fell in love with it right away and have been enjoying it ever since on every trip to Arlon.

For this recipe I am not making my own frites. To be honest, making frites is a labour-intensive, messy and smelly affair, and I prefer to make oven-fries at home. But I wanted to pimp them. So I decided to season my frites with ‘chicken salt’ – a crumbled (salt-free!) chicken stock cube mixed with salt, which is added to the fries before they go into the oven. It tastes full of umami and finger-licking good! I snatched this genius idea from my London friend Emma. Emma’s Australian, and she prepared these fries for me last time I visited, explaining that in Australia, chicken salt is a thing! You can even buy chicken salt seasoning in the supermarkets. How genius! It definitely gives a little spin onto the traditional frites sauce fromage from Arlon. I hope you like it!

This recipe was made for Tonicités as part of a series of recipes celebrating the inter-regional town network between Luxembourg City, Esch-sur-Alzette, Longwy, Arlon, Metz and Thionville.

October 20, 2023