17th February 2019
How to eat like a Bavarian
Hannah heads to Germany to sample the delights of the south-eastern state of Bavaria
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that eating is the most cost-effective way to travel. Sampling the flavours of international cuisine can transport you across the globe from the comfort of your local restaurant, and is an exceptionally immersive experience when seeking to discover a culture. So, when it came to my recent trip to the continent, learning about the food was a must.
It helps that I have German friends living in Munich. Lara and I first crossed paths when we were both living in Melbourne back in 2010, and since my return to the UK in 2014, visiting each other’s homes has become an annual tradition.
But before I delve into how to eat like a Bavarian for the day, a disclaimer is required: Traditional Bavarian fare is not sexy, trendy, or particularly health-conscious. It’s the type of meal that you’d devour with an axe after a long stint of hard, cold labour in the snow-capped alps. It’s carbohydrates, slabs of meat and root vegetables – and it’s refreshing.
Here’s what I ate in a day of traditional Bavarian gastronomy…
Breakfast: White sausage and soft pretzel served with sweet mustard
This is the Bavarian equivalent of a classic British fry-up – it’s not something that should be consumed every day. The white sausage (Weißwürste) is a little controversial, as a key ingredient is minced veal, but it’s mixed with pork back bacon, and typically flavoured by parsley, cardamom, ginger, lemon, onion and mace. You can find them in almost any Bavarian market, where they’re freshly prepared in the mornings.
Lara heats the sausages in just-shy-of-boiling water for around 10 minutes, before serving them up with a fresh pretzel and a jar of sweet mustard (Weißwurst-Senf).
It must be said that this mustard is the proverbial cherry on the cake, and I never return from Munich without a jar. It’s a potent punch to the sausage’s subtle flavours, while also being gluten-free and vegan-friendly for those who want to give it a try.
Lunch: What seems like a whole pig served with potato salad
We’ve left Munich and headed into the Bavarian Alps to Tegernsee, a pretty resort town on the edge of an expansive lake. None of the waiting staff speak English at Braeustueberl Tegernsee, where, although my German listening and reading is passable, my speaking leaves much to be desired. So, I settle for pointing gormlessly at a giant lump of pork that a fellow customer is happily tucking into nearby.
The pork – enough to feed a family of four – comes with a sharp knife plunged through a hefty layer of crackling, and a cold potato salad (Kartoffelsalat), made with oil and vinegar. (Most Bavarian chefs will add cucumber, sometimes pickled, and bacon pieces.) Potato salads make for a common side dish in Bavaria: Due to its cold climate and rural conditions, only root vegetables and potatoes do well here; consequently, they’re a staple.
Dinner: Slow-cooked lamb, Kässpatzen and green beans
The lamb and green beans are pretty self-explanatory, so let’s talk about the real star here: Kässpatzen. Put very simply, you could call this the Bavarian mac ‘n’ cheese, and if you’ve visited the state and not tried it, something has gone terribly wrong. This is comfort food as it was always intended – warm, rich and indulgent.
A long German dumpling noodle – usually lathered in cheese and onion – Kässpatzen is a perfect combination of the crowd-pleasing and the exotic. This meal is the one you write home about, and then cook when you get back.
But there’s no need to drain the bank account and travel to Bavaria, as most of these dishes are simple to reproduce at home. If want to give them a try, there’s a pretty nifty guide to be found here. Happy travelling, folks!