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Art & Culture
Traditional Cuisine Reinterpreted
Juicy roast pork, a gigantic schnitzel? What are the distinguishing features of Austrian cooking? We set out on a palate-pleasing foray to five of Salzburg’s top culinary addresses, in a bid to trace the unique contribution made by each.
Our search for the core values of Austrian cooking begins at Restaurant Sacher. This traditional hotel next to the River Salzach serves up more than 10,000 wiener schnitzels a year. Head chef Manfred Stüfler points out the important ongoing contribution of the many countries which once constituted the crown lands of the Austrian monarchy, as he does the regionality of the products he prepares. Needless to say, he takes great pride in selecting beautiful cutlets of veal tenderloin, each prepared to perfection in its own individual pan. But “Austrianism”, if you will, goes beyond the usual narrow definitions. As a Carinthian, for example, he uses a traditional technique known as grandeln, in order to add a wavy crimp to the edge of the dough of his original Carinthian noodles. And to his truffle noodles, too!
Likewise, Jürgen Vigne, owner and head chef of the Pfefferschiff restaurant in Hallwang, has committed himself to seeking novel approaches to the Austrian classics. Let us take as an example the ever-popular braised beef and onions in gravy, known here as Zwiebelrostbraten, a dish practically every Austrian has grown up with. But at the Pfefferschiff, they use dry-aged sirloin prepared to no more than a gentle pink. And the fried onions, well, they are actually plated in a powdered form. And instead of roasted potatoes, diners can look forward to a finely pureed foam.
An unexpected Austrian element also lends an extra special something to the scallops on the menu at Gasthof Auerhahn. There, head chef Gerhard Pongratz incorporates greaves, finely diced with herbs and butter. Drizzled over the scallops, the dish develops a nutty aroma.
That said, some boundaries should simply never be crossed when it comes to culinary experimentation. “If you cube a saddle of veal, it no longer has a thing in common with a wiener schnitzel”, says Markus Mayr, head chef at Restaurant Schloss Mönchstein. You should leave a schnitzel just the way it is. Though at the Mönchstein, it is given a bit of an original twist thanks to homemade lemon marmalade, rather than the more traditional lingonberry preserves.
Roland Essl adheres to the principle of nose-to-tail cooking. The owner of Gasthof Weiserhof prepares dishes according to ancient recipes. Homemade blood- and liver sausage as well as saumeise are produced as they have been for countless generations. That said, sometimes the simplest things require the most time and effort. But a love for traditional Austrian foods justifies that. Not least because it is so vital to focus on regional products – something upon which all of the chefs we talked to agreed.