Cuisine from Central Europe
Great cooking comes from Central Europe, where a cold climate and long winters have inspired heartwarming, soul-satisfying, rib-sticking food made with fewer ingredients and more imagination than a sunnier climate would require. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Germany is a big country so expect and seek out your favorite regional variations, of which there are scores. For the carnivore, explore the endless array of beef and pork sausages and delicious specialties like Black Forest ham or heath land sheep. You're equally spoilt for choice when it comes to fish; sprats, herring and shrimps, eel, pike-perch, carp, trout or whitefish depending on your proximity to sea or freshwater. You’ll have potatoes prepared every way imaginable and unbelievably satisfying breads. Pay homage to delicate white asparagus on the Baden Asparagus Route and swim in ruby red fruit soups, preserves, pastries, and sauces made with the luscious German fruits and berries. To leave without tasting Black Forest cake at the source is a waste.
Experience food in Austria on your feet in the street: wander through the ethnic melting pot of vibrant life and exotic scents at Vienna’s Naschmarkt, already a market place for dairy products in the 18th century. This premier open-air fruit and vegetable market should be on everyone's itinerary. Walk endless rows fruit, vegetables, seafood, spices, homemade pasta, cheeses and breads and pickles of all kinds. Had a long night out on the town? A typical hangover buster would be a pair of grilled or cooked sausages, served with freshly grated horseradish, mustard, ketchup, gherkins, a piece of dark bread and a can of local beer at a Würstelstände, the Austrian equivalent of the kebab house. Taste Salzburger Mozartkugeln and you have history, music and tradition in one sweet bite; sample pumpkin seed oil on savory dishes and desserts if you’re brave; Austrian cuisine is actually full of surprises.
Germanic and Slavic traditions combined with a Technicolor history bring together the cuisines of many different cultures in the Carpathians, where sustaining food rules the day.
Traditional cuisine in Poland cuisine combines the refined and elegant tastes introduced centuries ago by the French court with the wild, mysterious flavors of the Lithuanian forests, the sweet aroma of the dishes served for the Jewish Sabbath supper, and the fierce, rare taste of the raw steak Tartare (originally made by Genghis Khan’s horsemen, who would place a slice of raw beef under the saddle for extra tenderness. Yikes!) Potatoes, plain or dressed up, are a staple of the Polish diet. Try Shepherd’s potatoes with Czech blue cheese, chicken and oyster mushrooms, or another national favorite – potato pancakes! Ok, potato dishes don’t do it for you? How about duck with ginger and white cabbage with a selection of bread dumplings?
In the Czech Republic the cuisine features sturdy fare. Common soups are onion, garlic, goulash, at and Christmastime, the special carp soup. You’ll find lots of pork and beef on offer, cooked in stew and served with potatoes or dumplings. The former also show up as irresistible potato pancakes, where the latter exist in an amazing variety. Czech dumplings can savory or sweet and fruit-filled; for other “afters”, try a pancake anointed with a dollop of sour cream, or a lovely cake filled with fruit or cheese curd. Should you partake of a spa experience, be sure to nibble one of the round, sweet filled wafers which have sustained those taking the waters since the 16th century.
The traditional basic components of the diet in Slovakia have always been and still are milk, potatoes and cabbage. Tasty meals typical for Slovak cuisine such as cabbage dumplings are prepared from these ingredients. The Slovak national meal is bryndzové halušky, which is to Slovaks what sushi is to the Japanese or pizza to teenagers – but does not indicate raw fish on pasta. It’s a dish of potato dumplings made with a soft and salty sheep curd and fried chopped bacon for extra flavor, washed down with a glass of sour milk or whey. A big holiday feast is apt to feature a roasted goose, and for dessert, pastries of risen dough filled with marmalade, curd, nuts or poppy seeds.
You heard it here first: authentic dishes in Hungary are definitely not for people on a diet. Hungarian cooking may seem a bit heavy and fatty; however its rich flavors, aromas and textures compensate for the slightly excessive calorie intake. But don't think that everything is soaking in pork fat and paprika. These ingredients are essential for authentic Hungarian dishes, but properly portioning them and using modern cooking yield healthy as well as delicious dishes. The ingredients that account for the distinctive flavor of Hungarian meals are Hungarian paprika, lard, onion and garlic, sour cream and cottage cheese, walnuts and poppy seeds in sweet courses. Try cold cherry soup, authentic chicken paprika, and plum dumplings for dessert. What diet?