The Cookies You Can Only Find In One Belgian City

If you've ever been to Belgium or were interested in the bilingual (French and Flemish) country, you know it's a food lovers' paradise. And some of us were first introduced to the country by reading Agatha Christie's mystery novels starring her famous fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Although Poirot solved most of his cases in the U.K., he would've surely eaten different food if he lived in Belgium. 

BBC reports that the mega-popular pommes frites (or simply fries) were invented in the Belgian town of Namur, but the claim is regularly disputed by the French, who claim the deliciously crispy side dish and snack as their own. Belgians love their fries with mayonnaise or sauce andalouse, consisting of mayonnaise, peppers, and tomato paste. 

And how about those homemade Belgian waffles, originally called "gaufre?" The large and crispy gaufres are usually topped with fresh fruit, whipped cream, or Nutella. There are many other Belgian delicacies, such as moules-frites (mussels and fries), carbonnade flamande (a hearty beef stew), and unique hand-shaped cookies (per Condé Nast Traveler).

You can find hand-shaped almond cookies in Antwerp

Hand-shaped cookies are a specialty of the Belgian city of Antwerp. These small treats have been produced since 1934, when there was a competition to make the instantly-recognizable specialty of Antwerp. The dough is traditionally made with a combination of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and blanched sliced almonds. The cookies, called Antwerp Hands, are then baked in the oven until they're golden-brown and fragrant. 

But why are the cookies shaped like hands? There's a local legend that a Roman soldier named Silvius Brabo chopped off the hands of the giant Antigoon, who demanded a toll from sailors who were crossing the Scheldt river. And that's how, supposedly, the hands became a true symbol of Antwerp (per Focus on Belgium). Originally, Antwerp Hands were made by a Dutch-Jewish baker, Jos Hakker, who pressed the dough into a mold that was shaped like small hands, and he won the competition of the Royal Association of Master Pastry Makers of Antwerp (per Amazing Belgium). 

Today, the cookies are a tasty symbol of the city that come in a few different versions, such as the ones made with chocolate, or filled with marzipan and a local herbal liqueur called Elixir d'Anvers, which dates back to 1863, according to Difford's Guide.