Naturally, it’s the latter. Tasting home-grown gastronomy has gone hand-in-hand with cultural sightseeing since humans began travelling for leisure, and many go to great lengths to delve deep into the indigenous cuisine of a given destination.
And in Europe, this trend is no different. Across the continent exists resident dishes which offer an authentic taste of the region, so you can get to grips with every aspect of local culture — from its architectural highlights to its penchant for cheese, seafood or copious quantities of garlic.
Here, we look at 12 European foods to try on your next river cruise with Scenic, listed by their country of origin.
Taking culinary influence from Germany, Italy, Hungary and the Balkans, Austria has cultivated a distinct national cuisine often referred to as Viennese Cuisine (though regional variances do exist). Here we look at two of Austria’s most beloved regional dishes.
Thought to have emerged during the 19th century, Wiener Schnitzel is Austria’s undisputed national dish; a thin veal cutlet pan fried in bread crumbs and traditionally served with lettuce, chive and onion dressed in a sweetened vinaigrette. In Vienna, the dish is commonly served as a street-food option alongside rice, roasted potatoes or French fries, though the quality of the meat tends to differ depending on the vender in question.
Apfelstrudel, or ‘Apple Strudel’ as it’s known in English, may sound a simple and unexciting regional dish, but Austrians have come to perfect this delightful dessert since the first strudel recipe was produced in 1696. Traditionally, the dessert is made from an unleavened dough of flour, butter and salt, sculpted into a pastry jacket ready for the filling. The filling is typically made from grated cooking apple, cinnamon, raisins and sugar, though other modern variations now exist.
Contributing significantly to the regional cuisine of many western countries, French cuisine is considered among the finest in the world, and the country’s gastronomic offering is protected by UNESCO on account of its ‘intangible cultural heritage’. Here we look at two examples of French gastronomy you’d do well not to miss.
Port au feu
Honouring the table of rich and poor alike, Port au feu is the epitome of French family cuisine, and one of the country’s best-loved dishes. Literally translating as ‘pot on the fire’, Port au feu is a classic beef stew consisting of inexpensive cuts of beef, oxtail or marrowbone, root vegetables and spices. The dish is cooked slowly to extract maximum flavour, before being served with Dijon mustard or horseradish.
A popular breakfast option in the innumerable cafes of Paris; Croque monsieur is a delicious hors d'œuvre dish which originated as a quick snack or light bite. The classic Croque monsieur consists of sweet Brioche-like bread, Gruyere or Emmental cheese and boiled ham, fried or baked together to create a delicious ham and cheese sandwich. It’s thought this French staple emerged in 1910, when the dish appeared on the menu of a Parisian café.
With a cuisine as varied as the regions from whence they came, German gastronomy takes many forms, and has evolved as a result of years of social and political change. Despite having no clear-cut and all-encompassing culinary identity, German cuisine is considered the world’s second most decorated cuisine after France. Here are two of our favourite regional dishes from the country.
For those unaccustomed to sampling local street food, we’d urge you to leave the comfort of the restaurant and sample a portion of Currywurst, Germany’s favourite fast food dish. Made using fried and chopped German Bratwurst (sausage to you and I), the meat is seasoned with curry powder, tomato ketchup and served with a side of fries — a truly delicious combination. This unusual dish is said to have been invented by Herta Heuwer in 1949, after acquiring ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers in West Germany.
One of the country’s favourite national dishes; sauerbraten is a pot roast, translating in English as ‘sour’ or ‘pickled’ roast. While this might not sound all that appetising on paper, trust us when we say: this truly is a delicious dish, and one you’ll be keen to recreate back home. Sauerbraten consists of roast pork marinated in wine, vinegar and spices for around ten days, before being served alongside braised cabbage, sauerkraut and dumplings. Washed down with a pilsner beer; food doesn’t get much heartier than this.
Sourcing its culinary influences from the Mediterranean, Western Europe and the Balkans, Hungary’s gastronomic offering is wonderfully varied and exciting. While traditional Hungarian dishes have been based on meat and vegetables, contemporary recipes have emerged in more recent years — bringing fragrance and spice to the nation’s palate. Here are two dishes not to be missed in Hungary.
Guliyás, or ‘goulash’ as it’s known in English, is synonymous with Hungary, and remains universally popular to this day. Containing chunks of beef, vegetables and potatoes, Guliyás was originally introduced by cattle herdsman to keep them warm on a cold winter’s night. But this is no ordinary soup or stew. Guliyás contains lots of paprika and spices, giving it a flavour that’s distinctly Hungarian.
Don’t be put off Töltött Káposzta by its seemingly impossible to pronounce name; this is Hungarian comfort food at its finest. The dish consists of rolled cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice, and covered in sour cream. A street-food favourite in Budapest, Töltött Káposzta contains tangy pickled vegetables that perfectly complement the rich meat and rice, making it the ideal light bite as you explore the banks of the Danube.
Complementing the heat and exoticism of the country itself, Portuguese cuisine is characterised by its rich Mediterranean influence, as well as its reliance on the Atlantic Ocean. Seafood is more popular than meat in Portugal, while its former colonial clout has introduced far-flung flavours to the country’s larder, including piri piri, saffron and cinnamon. Here are two Portuguese dishes you must try during your next visit to the country.
A firm favourite during public holidays and celebrations, Caldo verde is a wonderfully rich and spicy soup made from potatoes, kale, onions and slices of Portugal’s favourite sausage, chouriço. Traditionally, Caldo verde is served as a late supper on an evening, or else before a main meal during a national holiday.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
Perfectly accompanied with an ice cold bottle of beer on a sunlit afternoon; Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is a delicious clam-based dish that’s served in traditional Portuguese restaurants and bistros across the country. Containing only the freshest Atlantic clams, Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is fresh and heart-warming in equal measure; its coriander, garlic and olive oil sauce providing a wonderfully tasty dip in which to dunk your bread.
Synonymous with two of the world’s favourite foodstuffs: cheese and chocolate, Switzerland delivers ample opportunity for sheer indulgence. Couple this with a roster of delicious regional dishes which date back hundreds of years, and you can look forward to sublime eating in this petit European country. Here are two of our favourite dishes from Switzerland.
The humble potato rosti is one of Switzerland’s most iconic dishes, and was first introduced by farmers in the canton of Bern, who traditionally ate the dish for breakfast, a custom still respected today. The Valaisanne-style rosti is made from grated potato, pan-fried until golden brown, and is often accompanied by bacon, fried egg, Swiss cheese and tangy gherkins. Can you think of a better way to start the day?
Vacherin Mont D’Or
The Swiss take their cheese very seriously, and depending on the time of year, you’ll notice different varieties of this dairy-based delight pop up in shop-fronts and cheesemongers. Between September and April Switzerland sees the arrival of Vacherin Mont D’Or, a tasty cow’s milk cheese cultivated in the country’s Jura region. Smothered in white wine and garlic, before being baked in its wooden box, Mont D’Or is heavenly when served warm over boiled potatoes and bread; the ultimate winter warmer.
Helping you sample the regional delicacies of Europe, Scenic offers a selection of locally sourced dishes aboard its luxury Space-Ships — each carefully prepared by our team of professional chefs.
To find out more about our wonderfully indulgent on-board cuisine, or to browse our range of luxury European river cruises, visit the homepage or call us on 0808 252 5111.
Image credits: Fotolia, Flickr Creative Commons: Karen Rustad, Kefraya, Cayetano, jules