5 Austrian dishes that will make you cancel your flight back home

Food is a portal into a country; it gives you a unique glimpse into a culture and can operate as an expression of cultural identity. For example, although my family and I have been living in Canada for many years, we cook Iranian food at home – in a sense, we’ve preserved a part of our identity and culture by cooking these traditional Persian dishes.

As the world is becoming more globalized and diverse, it is becoming easier to access cuisines from different cultures.

But, being able to experience a food within the confines of its own culture puts the experience within a different light.

Saying that, one of my favourite things to do while traveling is trying new foods that are native to the place that I am visiting. Each dish is special to the people of a country and each dish has a special place within each culture – so what better way to experience food than doing it right at the heart of where it was first enjoyed?

In Austria, there is no shortage of things to eat. If anything, with the amount of coffee houses and restaurants, you may get overwhelmed by what to try first.

So let me make the job a bit easier for you. Here are 5 dishes you won’t want to miss out on while you’re visiting this beautiful country.

1. Apple Strudel

The apple strudel is a traditional Viennese strudel. Its insides are light and delicious because of the apple pieces, but flaky and comforting on the outside because of the filo pastry. A hint of cinnamon is sprinkled throughout the pastry and adds a feeling of comfort to each bite.

Apple Strudel with whipped cream on the side
Apple Strudel with whipped cream on the side

Apple strudel dough is thin. So thin, in fact, that one should be able to read a newspaper through it.

Accompanied by a side of tea or coffee, it’s a delicious treat after a day of walking.

Drinking coffee and eating apple strudel at Landtmann cafe in Vienna

Where can I have this in Vienna?

2. Kaiserschmarrn

Translated into “Emperor’s mess”, the Kaiserschmarrn is exactly what it says it is: a shredded “mess”.

These pancakes are made from a sweet batter and are shredded into pieces with two forks while being fried. To complete them, they are accompanied by a fruit compote.

Kaiserschmarrn with a side of plum compote
Bite-sized pieces of heaven sprinkled with powdered sugar

Since the pancake is made from a sweet batter, even without the compote, it tastes like a dessert. Each bite is fluffy and light, as if you are taking a bite from a cloud.

The traditional compote that accompanies this pancake is Zwetschgenroster. It is a plum compote, and, in my opinion, is the best one to pair with the pancakes. The light sourness of the plums cuts through the sweetness of the pancakes, making each bite absolutely perfect.

Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake with plum compote)
Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake) with plum compote

Where can I have this in Vienna?

3. Schnitzel

If I had to pick the most well-known dish on this list, my guess is that it would probably be the Schnitzel.

Not only is it known around the world, but it is one of the best known specialties of Viennese culture.

For those who might not be familiar with Schnitzel, it is a thinned out piece of meat that is coated with flour, eggs, and sometimes bread crumbs – which is then fried.

In Austria, it is typically made of a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal – and although it is fried, it is still quite light.

Eating pork schnitzel, Tafelspitz, and mixed salad in Vienna
Pork schnitzel with a slice of lemon

Where can I have this in Vienna?

4. Goulash

Goulash is a meat and vegetable stew that is fairly popular in Central Europe.

A delicious plate of Goulash
A delicious plate of Goulash

I have tried a few Goulashes, and some have been of varying consistencies. Some are like soup, while others are thicker.

A close-up of Goulash

This dish remind me of a home-cooked meal. Something cozy that would hit the spot on a cold day or would lift your spirits on a sad day.

Where can I have this in Vienna?

5. Tafelspitz

Tafelspitz is another cozy meal, just like Goulash.

To put it simply, Tafelspitz is boiled beef that is simmered with root vegetables and spices in a broth.

A spread of goulash, schnitzel, and mixed salad

Each sip and bite is the perfect amount of spice. The closest feeling I could describe for each taste of Tafelspitz is a feeling that brings comfort to the soul.

Where can I have this in Vienna?

What are your thoughts on food and culture? Do you also think that food gives you a glimpse into different cultures? Let me know in the comments below!

For more adventures in Austria, click here.