Austrian Cuisine

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 at 12:00 am

apple strudelAustrian cuisine is derived from that of Austro-Hungarian Empire, a culinary reflection of an ethnically mixed people who, during the many centuries of the Austrian Habsburg empire’s expansion and contraction, have exchanged culinary know-how with Turkish, Swiss, Alsacian, French, Dutch, Italian, German, Bohemian-Moravian, Hungarian, Polish, Croatian, Slovenian, Slovakian, Serbian, and Jewish cuisine. Because of these influences, Austrian cuisine is considered one of the most diverse in Europe.

The food Austrian cuisine is most famous for are its desserts and pastries. The capital Vienna has several desserts that its citizens boast of, including Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), Topfenstrudel (cream cheese strudel), Vanillekipferl (sweet vanilla-hazelnut biscuits), and Palatschinke (a type of crepe inspired from the Hungarian dish Palacsinta). Some examples of baked goods being served in Austria are Buchteln (bread with apricot filling) and Sachertorte (a type of chocolate cake).

Aside from sweets, each region has their specialty dishes derived from different meats. For instance, the Viennese have a liking for Tafelspitz (boiled beef served with apple and horseradish sauce), Selchfleisch (smoked meat with sauerkraut and dumplings), even offals such as calf lungs and heart (in Beuschel). Austrian dishes vary today according to the Bundesland’s (Austrian state’s) culinary history and to each of its agriculture with its export-import tradition.

For instance, in Burgenland the cuisine is influenced by its flat lands and proximity to Hungary. The dishes are prepared with lots of locally-grown fruits and free-roaming chicken and geese. Examples of these dishes are the Buergenlandisches Erdbeerkoch (baked strawberry mush) and Buergenlandische Gaenseleber (goose liver simmered with onions).

Cuisine in the country’s southern states of Carinthia and Styria have culinary influences from Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Italian methods of food preparation. It is not surprising that their dishes appear to be Mediterranean, such as the use of ham as well as mild-climate herbs and vegetables. Dishes from these areas include Steirisches Verhackert (diced Austrian cured ham with garlic and pumpkin seed oil) and Steirisches Poulard (roasted herb-stuffed capon or chicken).

Lower Austria’s way of cooking reflects historic ties with Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Oriental cooking, examples of which are Serviettenknoedel mit Semmelkren (baked bread with saffron gravy) and Gezogener Apfelstrudel (pastry dough filled with apples).

Upper Austria and ancient Salzburg states borders with Germany and the Czech Republic. Their culinary expertise creates the likes of Linzertorte (flaky cake lined with currant or raspberry jam) and Salzburger Nockerln (light dessert souffle dusted with vanilla sugar).

Meanwhile, Tirol and Voralberg food specialties are inspired by ingredients native to the mountainous poor soil and cool wooded areas with a tradition of importing from Italy and exchanging with Switzerland, such as Tiroler Leber mit Polenta (veal or beef liver with onions, capers, lemon juice, and white wine served on corn mush), Groestl (sliced pan friend onions and potatoes) and Schlutzkrapfen (spinach stuffed pasta pockets topped with butter and Parmesan cheese).

Because of Vienna’s historic past steeped in European history, its cuisine is unique and international. Viennese specialties were created by people who were influenced by the country’s past monarchic system. As the Habsburg royal family was involved in power politics to as far as Spain, its cuisine absorbed several international ingredients such as Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet), Parmesanschoeberlsuppe (clear broth with diamond-shaped Parmesan cheese flavored souffle dumplings), Fiaker Goulash (paprika beef stew), and Sacher Torte (chocolate glazed cake filled with either apricot, currant, or raspberry jam).

A typical Austrian meal consists of between 2 to 7 courses according to the importance of the meal’s guest or occasion. It is usually made up of an appetizer, a soup, and a main course with one or two side dishes. It may also include a dessert that can be either a cake or any baked specialty made with flour. With a fine meal, Austrian adults like to drink either beer, wine, or sparkling wine while the younger generation tend to favor fruit juices, fruit-flavored waters, and wine spritzers.