When you think of food in Switzerland most people think about chocolate. I don’t blame them, that is a pretty good addition to the Swiss cuisine scene, and a personal favorite of mine. Others might picture Emmental cheese, or fancy muesli, but if you were asked to think of an entire meal that originates from Switzerland, not many people would be able to think of one. (And no, chocolate does not count as an entire meal!)
However, Switzerland actually has a pretty impressive collection of foods that it’s famous for, and with influences from France, Germany, and Italy, the cuisine can be quite varied depending on which part of the country you’re in. During our stay at Mövenpick Hotel Zürich-Regensdorf, we had the opportunity to sample some of the countries best.
This dish, which literally means ‘Alpine herdsman’s macaroni’, was created from the ingredients available to the mountain herdsmen in their alpine cottages. It’s a type of gratin made with macaroni potatoes, onions, bacon, and melted cheese. The herdsman usually had it served up with a side of applesauce, which give it even more of a signature taste and flavor. Älplermagronen is a warming dish that is perfect for the cold Swiss months, and you will usually find it in the German parts of Switzerland.
Most of you will be familiar with hash browns, and rösti is just like a bigger version of a hash brown. Rösti is a simple dish originally cooked by farmers and eaten at breakfast – it’s very inexpensive and easy to whip up with very little ingredients.
The most basic rösti is made from grated potatoes, which are shaped into patties and fried in a pan. The potato’s starch holds it together perfectly to create a crispy and delicious rösti. Sometimes other ingredients are added to make the dish more interesting, such as bacon, cheese or onion, and it can either be served as a side for something else, or some people will have it alone as a meal.
If you’re a fan of cheese and find yourself in the French part of Switzerland, always make sure to look out for Raclette, as it’s something you are sure to delight in. This tasty dish is prepared by semi-melting a big slab of cheese, and when the outsides look as if they’re going gooey, the melted parts are scraped off onto a plate, and served up with jacket potato and pickled foods such as gherkins or onions.
The word ‘raclette’ refers to both the name of the dish and the name of the cheese used to melt. It is a hard cheese that comes in big wheels and is a very popular sharing meal, as you can just melt the raclette in the center of the table on a special grill, and have all the other components in dishes spread around the table.
If you’re watching your calorie intake this probably isn’t the meal for you, but it’s definitely something worth indulging in during a visit to Switzerland.
As you can tell from some of the main dishes mentioned above, cheese is extremely popular in Switzerland. The country is mostly known for producing mild, light cheese such as Emmental, Gruyeres, Tilsiter or Appenzeller, and of course the famous picture of a block of cheese with holes in it originated in Switzerland.
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys cheese with a bit of a kick, tang, or blue tinge to it, Switzerland probably isn’t going to be the best place for you, and you’d be better heading off into neighboring France to find stinkier versions.
If you’re not familiar with fondue, you must have been born too late and missed the time when fondue was all the rage. It’s a tradition that back in 70s came well into fashion, and people all over the world were having fondue parties – I say it’s about time the tradition came back!
For those of you won don’t know, fondue is a big pot of melted cheese that you dip small cubes of bread into; it really is simple as that. The roots of fondue definitely come from using cheese, but the name is also used for dishes that use something else to melt and dip into, such as chocolate.
The dip for a traditional Swiss cheese fondue is prepared with cheese, wine, and sometimes splash of kirsch, which is like a fruit brandy. This gives it the signature Swiss flavor, which is delicious and definitely very indulgent.
Of course, for dessert you could simply sample a range of Swiss chocolates, such as Lindt’s beautiful creations. However, if you want something a little different, Switzerland still has a couple of other options for you to try.
Carac is a Swiss shortcut kind of pastry that is very popular in the French part of the country. They look like little round disks with pastry on the outside and a bright green topping. On the inside, however, is a dense layer of chocolate, making them tasty but also extremely rich and heavy.
Meringue is also another dish that is well known and originates in France and Switzerland. The Swiss way of preparing it involves beating the eggs over a warm heat on the stove, and whisked until it’s cooled. The result is a dense and marshmallow-like substance which is then shaped and baked.
Wine is probably the most popular drink made in Switzerland, and you can find all kinds of wines and wineries dotted all over the country. Interestingly enough, absinthe is also coming back into fashion in Switzerland as the ban on its production was lifted in 2005. You can find Swiss absinthe being imported to many other places all over the world, but to try the real deal in its native land, head to the Val-de-Travers district of Switzerland to sample some of the best in the world.
As you can see, there are so many different kinds of food from Switzerland, enough to satisfy any kind of food lover. The sweet tooths amongst us will certainly be happy with all those varieties of chocolates and desserts, but for the savory-inclined crowd, cheese is also just as popular, and you’re sure to be satisfied by all that melted cheese goodness you can find all over Switzerland.
What’s your favorite Swiss meal?