Over the years of visiting Austria, I've had a chance to savour a variety of home-style Austria food usually prepared with lots of fresh produce from the vegetable garden (thank you Angelika). There is a fair amount of meat, but equally, there's an abundance of delicious non-meat dishes and recipes. Here's a look at a few personal favourites:
- Heinemann schnitzel: Who is Mr. Heinemann? I was told he's a family friend, and this is a family recipe that can't be found at the restaurants. We had this one Sunday afternoon for lunch, and it ranks as one of the best beef patty I’ve had - made with ground beef marinated with herbs and salt, kneaded, and then coated lightly with breadcrumbs and panfried. What makes it really special is the sauce, with capers, brandy and sour cream added to the pan once the meat is done to create a nice mixture used as a sauce for the patty. Served with cranberry sauce. It was as good as it gets, and always on my wish-list every time we visit.
- Tafelspitz: Boiled beef in a personal pot filled with delicious beef broth, accompanied with plenty of sides such as cream spinach and rosti. If you're in Vienna, Plachutta serves up an excellent Tafelspitz and definitely worth a visit.
- Goulash: To my asian taste-bud, this was my curry-fix. A very flavourful soup/stew with beef cubes, potatoes, carrots and lots of fragrant spices/herbs.
- Wiener Schnitzel: Made with pork (instead of veal which is traditionally what's being used), tenderised and cooked to perfection served with onion rice (onion rice?!) or potatoes, along with a lot of lemon juice and ketchup. Here in Singapore, EB makes the best Austrian schnitzel (totally unbiased), so you know who to call next time you want a schnitzel party...
- Schnitzel roll: A quick and easy jause (snack) that is always available at Billa and Spar (supermarkets). Asking for gherkins on top of ketchup always seem to raise an eyebrow at the deli counter, apparently not a very Austrian way of eating it, but it tastes 10x better.
- Carinthian Kasnudel (Dumplings): Having this dish is almost always a treat. It's a dumpling filled with potatoes, cheese and herbs, and then cooked in lots of butter. Extra extra special when it's made from scratch by hand as one of EB's relatives did for one of lunches last summer.
- Carrot purée soup: Carrots and a few slices of ginger were put to the boil in lightly salted water, and blended when it started boiling. Add fresh orange juice, olive oil, a little sour cream, and blend once more. Garnish with parsley. Perfect soup to warm up in autumn.
- Frittatensuppe: Clear beef broth with pancake stripes. I was surprised to see pancake (stripes) in soup - pancakes was to be drizzled in maple syrup! But here it is, goes amazingly well with beef broth.
- Pumpkin soup with a generous drizzle of good quality pumpkin seed oil. The pumpkin seed oil which is a specialty of Styria, is extremely fragrant and nutty and goes really well in salad and soups.
Shrooms (Sourced from the Woods)
- Chanterelle mushrooms: These are the yellow looking mushrooms which makes a great side dish when sauteed with finely chopped onions and parsley.
- Parasol mushrooms: These can be breaded schnitzel-style, served with lemon and cranberry jam on the side.. Excellent texture. It is common to go foraging in the woods for edibles here in Austria, and the locals are very knowledgeable when it comes to what's edible an what's not. If you have access to someone who knows how to pick the right mushrooms, this could be a real treat and experience. But if you don't, I'll recommend that you err on the side of caution, given there's a very similar looking one which is highly poisonous.
- Thinly sliced porcini mushrooms (from the woods as well!), slightly pan fried with salt and pepper. One of the simplest yet most exquisite dish
Homemade elderberry syrup. To enjoy: Just add cold sparkling water and you get one of the best local’s summer drinks. It smells of spring/summer and is a delightful treat. You can also add a little bit of white wine to make it into a little spritzer.
Almdudler: Kitschy-looking alpine soft drink. A refreshing sweet treat once in a while.
Fruits and Vegetables
One doesn't have to look far for the best produce. Most families seem to have a little vegetable garden and grow an abundance of vegetables and fruits in the warmer months and these in turn provides fresh organic ingredients for home-cooking.
Eating out in Austria (at least for people living outside of the main big cities) is not as common as it is in Singapore and there is a lot more emphasis on eating in. There is a lot of interest in eating from the land and harvesting your own ingredients - from the garden, from the woods, as well as a whole lot of preserving produce from the summer months for the winter. Looking forward to growing this list in time to come.