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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Travel Writings – Zurich Cuisine

Travel Writings – Zurich Cuisine

Rösti is considered to be the national dish of Switzerland. It’s a dish which has a lot of similarities with hash browns; as it consists of grated potato fried in a frying pan. It is thought to be highly representative of Swiss German culture in particular (which isn’t really surprising as it consists of potatoes).

From my experience with German cuisine thus far, I hadn’t had high hopes for this dish. Traditional German cuisine seems to regard vegetables as an accompaniment to the meat and an accompaniment which needs little attention other than being boiled. I’ve been informed the quality of the meat more than makes up for it, but as I’m vegetarian that’s not really much use to me.

It’s rare that I find a national dish that isn’t comprised of meat or fish, so even with little expectation of it being good, it was still a great opportunity. Luckily I was entirely wrong about the link of Swiss German and German cuisine being a liking for tasteless vegetables. The rösti is quite tasty.

I chose Rösti und Spiegelei which really could be easily mistaken for hash browns and sunny side up eggs from any American diner, if it wasn’t pointed out. This Rösti was superior to hash browns for two main reasons: the potatoes were fried in butter and there was the usage of herbs other than just salt and pepper (parsley and possibly thyme).In general, it would vary with preparation as there’s infinite ways to tweak the recipes and still make correct hash browns (and possibly the same is true for rösti as well).

Another dish I was pointed to as typically Swiss was späztle. It can’t really be that Swiss as I’ve had it in Hungary previously (though they called it galuska) and I doubt the Swiss cuisine is that popular in Hungary as an import. They are short pieces of pasta but solid, about two inches long. The consistency is somewhat like floury noodles or conversely, less floury dumplings. It’s between the both.

I tried Käsespätzle which is späztle mixed with cheese (I think Swiss cheese) and fried onions. The späztle is already chewy and so the mixture with cheese can be a bit hard to manage to chew but it works well with the onions added. I also tried späztle with mushroom sauce. That combination was the best meal I’d had in Switzerland (almost worth the 15CHF price tag, as everything in Switzerland is overpriced).

The cuisine of Zurich seems to be mostly German as would be expected but the tweaks to recipes that seem to be of Italian origin (use of basil and oregano etc.) really allow for the food to be exceptionally flavoured. I can’t comment on the meat but I think it’s very unlikely that it’s not done excellently as it is, after all, German cuisine. What’s nice is that the vegetables and pasta have also managed to be infused with good flavor and aren’t just a forgotten support act.  

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