Vienna is the only city to have a cuisine named after it. Thanks to the city’s rich history as the seat of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the food of this fine town is a cultural extravaganza with influences from present-day Germany, Hungary, Turkey and more.
On an unofficial quest to eat my way through Europe, I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in some of Vienna’s (and Austria’s) most well-known dishes.
1. Wienerschnitzel and Austrian Potato Salad
First up is the ubiquitous wienerschnitzel – Wiener meaning Viennese and Schnitzel meaning schnitzel. Traditionally it’s made from veal, but it comes much cheaper (and arguably just as delicious) in pork form. They’re basically pork escalopes.
Despite being fried, these pork cutlets which are pounded flat before being coated in eggs and breadcrumbs are surprisingly light. The example pictured below is from a restaurant in the Donauinsel (Danube Island) in central Vienna.
Wienerschnitzel with Almdudler and Potato Salad
Also pictured above is Austrian potato salad, which is a mix of fingerling potatoes, vinegar, onions and a few more ingredients. It’s much lighter and feels healthier than its American cousin.
Wienerschnitzel Recipe: http://germanfood.about.com/od/meatbasedrecipesandmenu/r/wienerschnitzel.htm
Austrian Potato Salad Recipe: http://www.potatosalad.org/austrian-potato-salad-recipe.html
2. Käsespätzle – Cheese Spaetzle
Spätzle is a common dish in the Germany, Switzerland, Austria and parts of Northern Italy. Its origins are most likely from the Swabian portion of Germany, though I found it to be just as tasty in far-away Vienna. It is a soft pasta made from flour and eggs which is then cooked with any number of other ingredients. The dish below is cooked with onions and cheese and is known as Käsespätzle, or cheese spaezle. This stuff has umami written all over it and has entered into my personal pantheon of guilty pleasure foods.
Cheese Spaetzle Casserole Recipe: http://germanfood.about.com/od/potatoesandnoodles/r/Kaesespaetzle-cheese-noodles.htm
3. Rindergulasch – Beef Goulash
Originating in Hungary, goulash is a hearty stew that has been adapted and adopted by Austrian, Germany, Poland and even the United States. Along with sauerbraten, it is one of my must-have dishes when I venture into a German-speaking country. Typically made with beef, it is sometimes used to top noodles and usually is accompanied by bread or potato dumplings.
The flavor of goulash comes mostly from the sauce, which is a mix of tomato paste, garlic and beef stock. Traditional Hungarian goulash comes with a hearty dose of paprika, though I’ve noticed that the Austrian variety was a little light on this key ingredient.
The goulash pictured below is from the historic Cafe Schwarzenberg, located on Vienna’s Ringstrasse (ring road). Due to my lack of photography skills, the goulash is actually pictured in the background, behind the grilled pork.
Beef Goulash (in the background)
Recipe (From Austria’s Wolfgang Puck!): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/wolfgang-puck/wolfgangs-beef-goulash-recipe/index.html
4. Sachertorte and Marillenkuchen – Sachertorte, Apricot Cake and Apricot Dumplings
Perhaps more Viennese than the Hapsburgs themselves, a trip to Vienna without eating sachertorte is a trip wasted. Invented by a 16-year-old sous chef in 1832 for an Austrian Prince, the little chocolate sponge cake has stood the test of time.
Traditionally, it is made with two layers of sponge cake divided by a thin layer of apricot jam. It is then covered in a shell of chocolate and served with whipped cream.
The cake is pictured below with another Austrian specialty, the apricot cake. Personally, I enjoyed the soft, moist apricot cake above the sachertorte. Baked in with large chunks of apricots, this Austrian and German cake includes a dough accented with lemon and vanilla to create a beautifully delicate and delicious dessert.
Sachertorte and Apricot Cake
Sachertorte Recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sachertorte-231043
Apricot Cake Recipe: http://germanfood.about.com/od/baking/r/aprikosenkuchen.htm
5. Marillenknödeln – Apricot Dumplings
Austrians are mad about dumplings, both sweet and savory. The apricot dumplings pictured below come from a traditional Austrian dessert specialist in central Vienna. The dumpling dough is made from egg and potato, making for a dense-yet-spongy consistency. Inside, the apricot is enhanced with a bit of sugar before being wrapped in dough and baked. Coated with bread crumbs, powdered sugar and apricot sauce, it feels more like a meal than a dessert.
Recipe for Apricot Dumplings: http://cookingweekends.blogspot.co.at/2011/09/marillenknodel-austrian-apricot.html
6. Apfelstrudel – Apple Strudel
In some ways, Viennese apple strudel is a representative of the city’s multicultural history. Using a dough similar to the kind used in Turkish baklava, German apples are added to the mix before being baked in long rolls.
The unofficial Apple Strudel headquarters appears to be at the Schonbrünn Palace located on the outskirts of Vienna. The palace puts on an apple strudel show and has released their own official recipe for the dessert.
Below is the famous Schonbrünn Apple Strudel from the Residenz Cafe in Schonbrünn Palace.
Official Apple Strudel Recipe: http://www.smarttravels.tv/SmartTravels/europe/tips%20&%20links/Vienna%20Strudel%20Recipe%20original.htm
Vienna is a city that knows and appreciates good food. Featuring familiar German flavors mixed with influences from the Ottoman Empire, it’s a food-lover paradise. If you are planning to visit this fine city, make it a point to try at least a few of the above-mentioned dishes. If a trip to Vienna isn’t in the cards, try some of the recipes listed above to create a little slice of the Vienna right at home.