If there’s one food most closely associated with Vienna, then it’s the Schnitzel. Eating one counts toward your collection of authentic Viennese experiences.
Traditionally, a Schnitzel is made from a cutlet of veal, pounded thin by a meat tenderizer, dipped in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs, and then fried until golden brown.
Today, veal Schnitzel is relatively rare.
Apart from veal being expensive, most people have realized that keeping calves locked up in dark crates for their meat is not the sign of a healthy civilization. Most Austrians and restaurants use pork instead. You’ll commonly find turkey Schnitzel on the menu, too (“Putenschnitzel”).
If a restaurant sells Schnitzel that is not veal, then they have to say so. In other words, assume your Schnitzel is veal unless otherwise labelled in the menu.
The Schnitzel is traditionally served with potato salad and a slice of lemon (which you squeeze over the meat), but french fries and rice are not unusual side-orders.
If you order one in a restaurant, do not be surprised to get a near-pizza sized piece of meat deposited on your plate with a couple of spoonfuls of potato salad. The Viennese are not big on health food. But they are big on pork; your average Austrian consumes around 39kg of it each year.
Although traditionally associated with Vienna, the Schnitzel originated in Milan, Italy. With time, various derivatives have appeared, including the aforementioned pork version. Of those, the most popular is the Cordon Bleu (Schnitzel with a filling of melted cheese and chopped ham).
Tip: If you want to gauge how expensive a restaurant is, look at the price of its Schnitzel (pretty much every restaurant in the city has one on the menu).
(Photo credit: © Natalia Bratslavsky / Fotolia)