4 Antwerp specialties you MUST try

#1 Antwerpse handjes – Antwerp Hands

One of the most known products of the city of Antwerp are biscuits called Antwerpse Handjes, literally “Antwerp Hands”.

The famous biscuits were created in 1934. At that time, Jos Hakker, a Dutch pastry chef, thought that Antwerp should boast its reputation as a city of sweet delicacies. On his initiative, the Royal Association of Master Confectioners of Antwerp organized a competition to create a new Antwerp specialty. Forty-three members of the confectioners’ association took part by creating a cookie or something sweet. Among them: Jos Hakker.

An “independent” jury assessed the taste of the cookies and chose the winner: Jos Hakker’s cookie shaped like a hand. The jury not only liked the taste of the biscuit, but also the shape of it. This shape linked the cookie to the legend about the origin of Antwerp starring Silvius Brabo*.

The cookie recipe is rather easy, meaning a lot of bakeries started producing the cookies. This way, there was no quality control. Therefor, in 1956 regulations were drawn up to protect the form, ingredients and packaging by a patent. From that moment on, only members of the Syndical Union for Bread, Pastry, Chocolate and Ice Cream Company were allowed to manufacture the biscuit.

*Silvius Brabo was a mythical Roman soldier who was said to have killed a giant, called Druoon Antigoon. The giant demanded a very high toll from the ships that passed by on the river Scheldt. When captains didn’t want or couldn’t pay, he cut off their hand and threw it in the river. Brabo came to Antwerp and defeated the giant, cut off his hand in turn and threw it into the river. According to folklore this legend explains the origin of the name Antwerp or Antwerpen in Dutch. Antwerpen is a derivative of “handwerpen”, which means “handthrowing”.

#2 Bolleke

Bolleke is the name of the beer brewed by the Antwerp brewery De Koninck. The beer used to be called De Koninck, but was nicknamed Bolleke by the inhabitants of Antwerp. This nickname comes from the typical spherical shape of the glass. (Bolleke means something round in Dutch.) In 2019, the brewery decided to change the name of the beer into its nickname, as in reality, no one called it by its official name anymore.

De Koninck brewery has been brewing beer since 1833 on the border between Antwerp and Berchem. This location on the border of two cities explains the hand on the logo of the brewery and their beers. It relates to the border pole that featured a hand (as a stop sign).

Bolleke (5.2%) is the most famous beer from the De Koninck brewery. It was created around the time that pilsners had become immensely popular in our region (the beginning of the previous century). Our brewers developed clear top fermentation alternatives because they lacked the resources to buy expensive cooling equipment required to make pilsner. The result: an amber-colored beer that is slightly malty and slightly hoppy with a touch of caramel.

It’s the true pride of Antwerp beermaking and is served in almost any café in Antwerp. You can also visit brewery De Koninck and learn all about the history of the brewery and its fine beers.

#3 Elixir d’Anvers

Elixir d’Anvers is a yellow-colored strong herbal liqueur that is made in Antwerp. The recipe was finalized in 1863 by its inventor François-Xavier de Beukelaer, after many years of research. Until this day, the recipe remains unchanged and the liqueur is still made in the same, traditional way. Only a hand full of people know the recipe.

The delicious liqueur is world renowned because of its remarkable digestive and beneficial properties. If you are bloated after a festive meal, drink a glass of Elixir d’Anvers and you’ll feel much better. Some people claim that it is also effective for menstrual pains, other gastrointestinal complaints and insomnia.

You can buy Elixir d’Anvers in supermarkets and also in a lot of stores that sell other typical delicacies, like our famous cookies and chocolates.

# Caramella Mokatine

Caramella Mokatine is a coffee flavored sweet made by Confiserie Roodthooft, which is a third-generation family business that was founded by Louis Roodthooft and his wife Johanna Stoops in 1925, in Antwerp. Caramella Mokatine are nicknamed ‘Arabierekes’, which can be translated as ‘little Arabians’. This nickname comes from the wrap around the sweets. It features an Arabian man, because the sweets are made with real arabica coffee beans.

Today, the sweets are no longer made in the city of Antwerp, but elsewhere in Belgium. However, they are still very much considered an absolute Antwerp delicacy. You can buy these treats in any supermarket in Belgium.

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