Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
Eating with Eichholtz
We’re about halfway through the Carnival season, which means beer consumption is increasing by the week. And is there anything better after drinking beer than having a generous serving of chips with a delicious topping? In other words, this is the perfect time for a chips test.
It’s a Dutch cliché to eat chips with Belgians, but I’ll be doing so anyway. Clichés are often true and the real chips experts hail from Belgium. The two chosen ones are Jolien de Bock, who studies at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, and Stefan Straetmans, my colleague in the School of Business and Economics. Jolien is an athlete pursuing a master’s degree in Human Movement Sciences, specialising in Sports and Nutrition. With her knowledge, she’s exactly the right person to discuss the value of a good serving of chips with. The nutritional value turns out to be limited. To endurance athletes in need of carbohydrates, pasta is three times as efficient – and free of the fat that comes with chips. Jolien thinks chips mainly have a psychological advantage: athletes who have to lead extremely disciplined lives throughout the week may benefit from indulging in a generous serving of chips once a week. I don’t know what our psychologists say about this, but it sounds plausible to me.
Both Jolien and Stefan primarily associate chips with happy childhood memories. On their way home from holidays abroad, the Straetmans family used to go for chips immediately after crossing the border into Belgium, for example at the chip stands along the road to Martelange. But Belgian chips culture is going downhill. Today’s youth prefer skinny McDonald’s fries to classic, thick-cut Belgian chips. The latter are still the standard to which we compare everything else, though.
The three of us tour the city. At each stop, we order one small serving of chips with mayonnaise and one small serving of chips with zuurvlees (literally “sour meat”), a regional meat dish. Our first stop, of course, is Reitz on the market square. Reitz is without a doubt the best-known chip shop in Maastricht, drawing queues of people every day. The question is whether this reputation is well deserved. It’s dangerous for a non-native resident of Maastricht to express criticism of a local icon that has existed for 110 years. But I have to, because our experience is quite disappointing. According to the vendor, the chips have been hand-cut and then deep-fried in beef tallow. They’re not bad, but they’re not great either. The mayonnaise is essentially liquid. As a result, the chips, which start out quite crispy, very quickly disintegrate into a pudding-like substance. The mayonnaise also doesn’t taste like mayonnaise, but like salad dressing: excessively sweet. Good mayonnaise is creamy, with a subtle egg and mustard flavour or a hint of lemon. This simply doesn’t cut it. While the zuurvlees is nice and tender, the sauce is far too thin and a touch too sour to our taste.
Our second stop is Tuutsje vaan Teunsje on the other side of the Meuse River (Wycker Brugstraat). We arrive around dinnertime and it’s busy, so we spend a long time waiting. But it’s worth it, as the chips are good and the mayonnaise in particular is much better. It’s nice and thick and tastes good. The chips stay crispy under the mayonnaise for a long time. The zuurvlees isn’t as good, though. It’s mostly sweet, with virtually no sourness. It doesn’t combine well with the chips.
Teunsje also offers a wide range of Dutch croquettes, so we order a shrimp croquette and a mussel croquette on the side. The mussel croquette is by far the best one. It tastes like the sea and contains a lot of mussels. The crust is perfect. The shrimp croquette could’ve been better: the filling doesn’t really taste like shrimp and it contains only tiny, well-hidden bits of shrimp.
The third chip shop we visit is tucked away in the neighbourhood Heugemerveld (Leo Moonenstraat 21): the Frietlounge, run by daughter Louise and mother Els. They’re the heroes of this story. They hand-cut their chips into large, thick slices and deep-fry them in vegetable oil. This is clearly the best stop. The chips are deliciously crispy on the outside – a little flaky, even – and very soft on the inside. They also stay nice and hot. The mayonnaise is perfect as well. Thick, with a very slight hint of sourness and a lovely egg flavour. Jolien even gives it the highest possible praise: “This mayonnaise is me.”
The zuurvlees is fantastic. Large slices of very tender meat, with a perfect sweet-and-sour taste and a hint of cloves. It combines very well with the chips. The only downside is that here, too, the sauce slowly turns the chips into goo. Serving toppings in separate containers may not look as artisan, but it does work better.
Here, too, are many different croquettes for us to choose from. We try the shrimp croquette and the veal croquette. Both are great, especially the former. The filling is fantastic: it tastes like a beautiful shrimp bisque and contains a lot of shrimp. Then again, it’d better, as it costs €4.
The Frietlounge also offers home delivery, but according to online reviews this doesn’t always go without a hitch. So, if you’d like to partake of the best chips in Maastricht, I’d say: make your way to Heugemerveld.
In this series Professor Piet Eichholtz (Professor of Finance at the School of Business and Economics) trawls the streets of Maastricht in search of good food with a student or colleague and reports on his findings here