10 Bavarian culinary specialties to sample at least once

Kaiserschmarrn
Kaiserschmarrn

10 Bavarian culinary specialties to sample at least once

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Just as Italian food is much more than the pizza and pasta that might first spring to mind, German cuisine also offers much beyond the stereotypical bratwurst and schnitzel.

While all regions of the country have their own specialties, it would be hard to top the country’s largest state in terms of producing some unconventional, yet wonderful dishes unfamiliar to American palates. Here are some Bavarian culinary treats just begging to be sampled:

Obatzda: This cheese spread, a beer garden staple, is made by combining Camembert cheese with a generous dollop of butter and then flavoring it with paprika, caraway seeds and/or finely chopped onions. It makes a great spread for not only pretzels but crackers, cucumbers and radishes too.

Spanferkel: A suckling pig is a young piglet not yet weaned from its mother. Typically slaughtered between the age of two to six weeks, its meat is light, mild and so tender it is almost gelatinous.

Presssack: Also known as Sülze, Schwartenmagen or Presskopf, the English name for this dish is head cheese, which is misleading, as the dish is dairy-free and more or less meat jelly. In Bavaria, Presssack is sold in sausage or rectangular form. When red, it likely contains blood. The addition of pickles and vinegar to some variations lends it a tangy taste.

Leberkäse: Another misleadingly named food is Leberkäse, or liver meatloaf, as the Bavarian interpretation of such has no trace of organ meat. A mixture of beef and pork is baked in a rectangular form until a dark crust has formed above a pinkish interior. It is served both warm, often with potato salad, or cold in a white roll, but either way, sweet mustard is bound to make an appearance.

Schweinshaxen mit Knödel: A pork knuckle served alongside dumplings remains a popular meal amongst those squeamish about organs or less-than-choice cuts and is an Oktoberfest standard. The best part of this tasty cut from below the pig’s knee is its fatty outer layer cooked to become a crispy crackling. Bavarian Knödel dumplings typically contain both bread and mashed potatoes.

Schäufele: A beloved Sunday dinner in the region of Franconia, this cut of pork shoulder is slowly cooked bone-in until it reaches melt-in-your-mouth consistency. How great it tastes alongside a cold beer goes a long way in explaining its popularity in Bamberg.

Weißwurst: A specialty of Munich since 1857, this pale veal sausage flavored with parsley differs from its brethren in terms of preparation and the time of day when it is eaten. The delicate Weißwurst is steeped in hot but not quite boiling water, which would cause it to explode. There’s a popular saying that goes along the lines of “the white sausage must never hear the church bells chime the noon hour.” For authenticity’s sake, consume with sweet mustard and a pretzel, and wash down with wheat beer.

Wirsing: Yes, vegetables are in fact consumed in Bavaria, and while sauerkraut would be a logical entrant to this list, this scrumptious side dish, most commonly consumed in Franconia, deserves mention. The dark green, frilly leafed vegetable known as Savoy cabbage to English speakers is typically cooked with onions and bacon to achieve an almost pureed consistency, to which the crisper and darker green outer leaves are added at the end for additional color and texture.

Kaiserschmarrn: The name of this dessert, translated as “the emperor’s mess,” is associated with Franz Josef I, who is reputed to have counted this dessert of fluffy, shredded pancakes amongst his favorites. Topped with powdered sugar, rum-soaked raisins are an optional add-in and divider of popular opinion.

Dampfnudeln: While some claim that the origins of this dessert trace not to Bavaria but to the Palatinate, what’s indisputable is that these yeasty dumplings, first steamed and then fried in butter until they develop a crisp bottom, go down like a treat when served with a tangy fruit jam or velvety vanilla sauce.

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