A taste of Imperial Vienna
Food, glorious food! Eating is an unavoidable but enjoyable activity of every human’s daily life. For those of us that travel, we delight in indulging in a whole range of cuisines as we move from country to country, devouring the most famous dishes and specialties. But every country’s cuisine is very much decided by its geographical location and from events in that has occurred in it’s history, as I recently found out during my trip to Vienna in Austria. My three days in this beautiful city gave me several opportunities to not only try traditional and famous dishes from Austrian cuisine but also an opportunity to learn about its history and how closely the two are connected.
When you look at a map, Austria lies at the crossroads of Europe, boasting a very strong and central position in a mighty and fierce continent. For hundreds of years, it has been the meeting point and collision point of a myriad of different cultures and it is this conjoining of cultures that has made Austria the country it is today. Much of the traditional Austrian cuisine we eat and love today was thanks to the numerous invasions from its neighbouring empires.
Take the famous Wiener Schnitzel for example. Think you’ve seen it before? That’s because you have! In Milan or Northern Italy! According to legend the recipe was bought to Austria by field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz in 1857, but true records show that it was infact found in an Italian cooking written in Latin “Lumbolos cum panitio” which can be translated in Italian as “Cotoletta alla Milanese” long before it was recorded in any German or Austrian gastronomy books.
Goulash, like many other Austrian dishes has been heavily influenced from its surrounding neighbours. Both the dish and the word “gulyá” directly translates to “herd of cows” in Hungarian and from this word “gulyás” (= Cow Herder). This meat dish was traditional prepared by cow-herders in kettles, commonly nicknamed “gulyás hus” (“hus” = meat) in Hungarian. Gulasch (in German) was brought to Austria from the middle ages and well into the 19th Century when large herds of cattle were driven into some of Europe’s biggest cattle markets in Vienna, Nuremberg and Venice. Subsequently, this once peasant dish became a popular choice of starters of soups in even the most stately of homes. Now there are a wide variety’s of different types of Gulasch that can be found throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Tafelspitz (Viennese Boiled Beef)
Not all dishes in Viennese cuisine are borrowed from other countries. Take this one for example, Tafelspitz or boiled beef in English. Much like our version of beef stew, this recipe requires only the best cut of meat, taken from the rear quarter of the cow (topside) that is tender and perfect to cut, steam or boil. From the Middle Ages, this simple but wholesome dish was a staple meal for all social classes. It was a relatively cheap type of meat to purchase and held high nutritional value at the time due to its high fat content.
During Maria Theresia’s reign, both Austrian and Viennese cuisines were heavily beef orientated. It was an integral part of every banquet or festivity menu and in 1836 records show it was the Emperor Franz Joseph I favourite dish, with this tasty meal on the royal family’s menu daily!
You can find the best Tafelspitz Recipe here!
Powidltascherln (Plum Pockets)
What a mouth full! (No pun indeed!) 🙂
These plum pockets (“Tascherl”) or (“Tatschkerl”) originated in the kitchens of Bohemia. Supposedly originating from the late medieval period the “Tartsche” in Old French was a small tournament shield with a cut-out side to accommodate the long jousting lance. It was then adopted by the Slavic people living in Bohemia for the name of the folded pastries that formed similarly to little shields.
Made from potato dough, these “shields” are circular pieces which are filled most traditionally with plum jam or sauce and then folded together to form a pocket. You can see them in the top of the picture!
Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudle)
Where would we be if we didn’t eat or mention one of the most famous of Austrian dishes, the Apfelstrudel! A huge favourite of mine, this dessert has a ton of variants and it is popular all over the world, even in the UK! The “Strudel” (=whirlpool or vortex in German) is formed of rolled up pastry in the shape of a snail tradtionally stuffed with spiced apple and raisins and rolled up with a covering of cinnamon, butter and sugar before being baked in the oven. Apparently the strudel originated in the Orient but its mostly well known in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, being found in Hungary Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland and Romania to name but a few.
Disclaimer: I was delighted to be a guest of Schick Hotels and enjoy such a delicious journey through Viennese culinary delights at Hotel Stefanie Restaurant. This menu was curated by the master chefs at Hotel Stefanie in Vienna and is available for 49.oo Euro Per Person