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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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waterzooi a Flemish dish of freshwater fish or chicken with vegetables, simmered in plenty of liquid, including white wine. Prepared with care, this is a delicate dish of great visual attraction, but also substantial. It is sometimes described as being in the ‘soup-stew’ category, and is certainly best served in deep bowls.

Waterzooi is particularly associated with E. Flanders and the city of Ghent. The unnamed but authoritative author of Belgian Cuisine (1981) says that the debate whether the first Waterzooi à la gantoise was made with fish or with meat is doomed to go on for ever, but that his impression is that most ‘experts in gastronomy’ believe it was fish. He also points out that there were plenty of freshwater fish in the rivers near Ghent in past centuries, but not now, so that it has become reasonable to use sea fish. He goes on to deplore the use of battery-bred chickens for the chicken version of waterzooi, stating that this important regional speciality can only be properly enjoyed if it is made with authentic free-range birds, as it used to be.