Food icons of the region - part 1: Famous dishes


We have thought long and hard about which food item should pave the culinary road of this exciting summer adventure exploring the foods and culinary traditions of Central Europe. The region is a foodie heaven and offers choices to satisfy every craving and the persnickety-est palate. There are limitless possibilities for food recommendations from every part of this region – from the Baltic to the Adriatic, from the great Alps through the Tatras and across the Carpathian Mountains, over the magnificent Great Alföld, one just can’t help but notice how truly CENTRAL food is to everything in Central Europe. You may have been told that Paris is the culinary capital of Europe – Mon Dieu! Do we have a surprise for you! We can’t wait to take you on a journey to some of our most magnificent cities in the region and to introduce you to the great pantry of the Central European food culture. Where do we start? With the icons of course!

“Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles”

Behold the all mighty SCHNITZEL! As our friendly Wikipedia page would say – it is a thin slice of meat fried in fat. Oh, but it is so much more than that! You don’t need Julie Andrews to tell you the schnitzel should be everyone’s favourite thing! 


Otherwise known as ljubljanski zrezek, rántott hús, kotlet schabowy, Wiener schnitzel, vyprážaný rezeň, zagrebački odrezak, Vepřový řízek – the schnitzel is a dish which can be found in every part of Central Europe. Though the meat used to prepare this dish changes from country to country; the basic concept is practically the same. Thinly sliced tenderized meat, coated in milk, flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, then fried in oil. Simple? Perhaps. But as simple as the recipe sounds there is no shortage of competition among restaurants in the region claiming to serve the best schnitzel in the country! Such is the case with the fabled Wiener Schnitzel. Legend has it that this famous veal version of the dish was brought to Austria from northern Italy and that Emperor Franz Joseph was himself a huge fan of it. It is said that the actual recipe for the fried meat originated in the Byzantine Empire and made its way to Austria through Andalusia, Spain, Rome and finally Milan. Other versions of the origin of the schnitzel suggest that it was simply an addition to the already common practice of frying breaded foods in Central Europe and that it quickly became a status symbol in the region, as meat was not always affordable and easily accessible to everyone. Whatever the true origin of the schnitzel is, the practice of frying breaded meat quickly spread through the entire region with the aforementioned versions being widely available in every Central European country. By the early 20th century the dish was a regular menu item at many restaurants and became a common food served at weddings and for special occasions. It even made its way to Israel after the Second World War in a chicken or turkey version commonly prepared by Ashkenazi Jewish families in Central Europe. It remains a popular dish in that country to this day. 


So how do you prepare the perfect schnitzel? In all of our research one thing is clear – ingredients matter. Whether you are using veal, pork, beef, turkey or chicken, make sure that the cut of meat you select is of top quality and try not to be too gentle in the tenderizing process of the meat. If you are making a stuffed version popular in Slovenia and Croatia, make sure you use the right kind of cheese so as not to have it all melt away in the frying process. Fry your schnitzel only from room temperature and use a wire cooling rack to drain any excess oil right away. Use only good quality free range eggs; never use stale breadcrumbs; and never, EVER, use old oil to fry your precious meat in! One of our grandmothers swears by adding a touch of butter to each piece of the resting meat at the end of the frying process - “for extra flavour” of course! 

We hope this little introduction to one of Central Europe’s most popular dishes will inspire you to try one of the tasty recipes we’ve included for you below. We would love it if you’d share your favourite versions and recipes with us as well! Perhaps we can settle once and for all who really makes the best schnitzel in all of Central Europe! One thing is clear – it will be a tasty battle!