Austrian Cuisine: Going Beyond The Schnitzel
The humble Wiener Schnitzel is well-loved worldwide; the thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet is one of Austria’s national foods and is the best known Viennese specialty dish. Then there’s the Sachertorte, the rich and tempting dense chocolate cake topped with apricot jam, which is a massive tourist draw to the Hotel Sacher in Vienna; they boast of having ‘The Original Sachertorte’ (as well they should, considering they won the rights to said claim in a legal dispute) and there are always scores of people wanting a piece or two. Other Austrian dishes are somewhat unknown outside the gorgeous central European country, but the Austrians clearly have quite the sweet tooth, as you will see!
1/ Kaiserschmarrn (Shredded Pancakes)
Named after the last Kaiser of Austria, Kaiserschmarrn literally means ‘emperor’s mess’. Franz Joseph, I was reportedly very fond of these fluffy shredded pancakes and he is far from alone. Kaiserschmarrn are caramelized pancakes filled with rum-soaked raisins that are torn to pieces with forks while frying. They are then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served hot with a fruit compote, traditionally Zwetschgenröster, which is made out of plums. While Kaiserschmarrn is a dessert, it is often eaten as a main meal in mountainside restaurants and taverns in the Austrian Alps.
2/ Kärntner Kasnudeln (Austrian Ravioli)
Kärnten, or Carinthia in English, is the southernmost region of Austria and the home of Kasnudeln. Akin to larger ravioli, these are made from thinly rolled noodle dough and filled potato, curd cheese, and spices, including a Carinthian mint. The noodle pockets are sealed with a curly edge and served drizzled in brown butter or with a bacon jam from neighboring Slovenia, called Sasaka. Though this is a savory dish, locals often like to cover the Kasnudeln in powdered sugar.
3/ Germknödel (Sweet Dumplings)
Another dish served both as a dessert and a main course, these are large, steamed yeast dumplings filled with Powidl, a sugar-free plum jam spiced with cloves and cinnamon. Germknödel are spherical in shape and made from a yeast dough with sugar and fat. The dumpling is steamed and served hot, drizzled with melted butter with a mix of poppy seeds and sugar on top. It is sometimes accompanied by Kanarienmilch, literally ‘canary milk’, a type of Austrian vanilla sauce so-named because of its yellow color. Germknödel are a perfect treat on a cold winter’s day and are most popular in alpine ski resorts!
4/ Käsespätzle (Austrian Mac'n'cheese)
This hearty dish is an Austrian take on mac ‘n’ cheese and hails from Vorarlberg, a region in the westernmost part of the country, close to Switzerland. This a mountainous region renowned for their long history of cheese making, so it follows that they’d produce a cheesy dish perfect for the alpine climate. Käsespätzle is a scrumptious dish made from a soft egg noodle and layers of a local Emmental – a yellow, medium-hard cheese - and Bergkäse – mountain cheese. This is topped with caramelized onion rings and served alongside greens or potato salad.
5/ Tafelspitz (Broiled Beef)
Tafelspitz is boiled beef or veal in broth, served with Apfelkren auf Wiener Art, i.e., a mix of minced apple and horseradish in the Viennese style. The name means ‘tip for the table’ and is also used for the cut of meat, which is called ‘top round’ in the USA and ‘topside’ in the UK. Tafelspitz is very popular throughout Austria and also in the neighboring German state of Bavaria. Franz Joseph I was said to be a great lover of the dish, so much so that according to the 1912 official cookery textbook used in domestic science schools of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, "His Majesty's private table is never without a fine piece of boiled beef, which is one of his favorite dishes."
6/ Tiroler Gröstl (Tirolean Breakfast Hash)
This is a favorite from the skiing and hiking region of Tirol, in the west of the country. Similar to a breakfast hash, the Tiroler Gröstl is made with onions, bacon and sliced pieces of meat, all sautéed in a pan. This is then served topped with a fried egg.
7/ Frittatensuppe (Beef Consommé)
This is a simple soup made by combining Palatschinken, i.e., crepe-style pancakes and beef consommé. The pancakes are tightly rolled up and sliced into coils before being added to the broth and topped with chives.
8/ Salzburger Nockerl (Salzburg Soufflé)
Salzburger Nockerl is a sweet, fluffy egg soufflé baked on a bed of cranberries and fashioned into peaks to resemble the three mountains which surround Salzburg. It is said that the famous Salzburg Prince Archbishop of Raitenau loved his mistress Salome mainly because of her divine Salzburger Nockerl. Taste this gourmet treat of a dessert and the legend isn’t so farfetched at all.
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