Welcome Service Tirol

The Welcome Service Tirol is the first point of contact for Tyrolean companies and universities and their international, highly qualified employees.

© Tirol Werbung, Foto: Heinzlmeier Bert

Food and drink

There is a Chinese saying to the effect that you have only truly been to a place when you have eaten there.

And anyone who has ever sat at an Italian dining table knows that there are endless aspects to the subject of eating and drinking: where the ingredients come from, where they are to be had in even better quality, what effects the various methods of preparation have on the taste, consistency and appearance of the dish, and who the ultimate expert is in preparing such dishes.

Food and drink are not of such central importance in the Tyrol, but there are still many dishes and special features of Tyrolean cuisine that shape our (culinary) culture and have become part of the Tyrolean identity. For everyday fare, international dishes are now well established in the Tyrol, including Italian and light Asian cuisine – not least because traditional meals in the Tyrol had to feed a physically hard working farming population and were therefore high in calories and very substantial. In the meantime, many of the classic Tyrolean dishes have become typical mountain hut fare – the perfect choice after a strenuous ascent on foot or skis or for tobogganing.

Traditional dishes
A classic in endless variations is the “Knödel”, i.e. dumpling, whether in the form of bacon dumplings, also called “Tiroler Knödl”, as cheese dumplings (“Kasknödl” or, fried, “Kaspressknödl”), as liver or spinach dumplings, actually a South Tyrolean speciality but one that is also very popular in North Tyrol. If you are asked whether you prefer the dumplings “zu Wasser” (in the water) or “zu Land” (on land), it means you can choose between dumplings served in a clear soup or on a plate with salad. Sweet dumplings are originally from Bohemia but are now also very popular in the Tyrol. The fruit filling (mainly apricots, plums or strawberries) is wrapped in a potato or curd cheese dough and rolled in buttered breadcrumbs and sprinkled with sugar before serving.

In addition to dumplings, other typical substantial dishes include “Tiroler Gröstl" (potato slices fried in butter with onions, meat or roast and served with a fried egg and cabbage salad), “Spatzln” (a kind of gnocchi boiled in salted water or baked in the oven with cheese and roasted onions as “Kasspatzln”) and “Schlutzkrapfen” (ravioli stuffed with potato or curd cheese and tossed in brown butter).

Traditional fare in the mountain huts also includes the “Brettljause”, a wooden board with bacon, hard cured sausages and various types of cheese served with brown bread. Real Tyrol experts also recommend the delicious Tyrolean grey cheese. Depending on its age, it can be white to dark yellow in colour and has a consistency ranging from dry and crumbly to almost creamy. It is eaten on bread or marinated in vinegar, oil and sage.

As indulgent desserts or - with a soup first - as sweet main courses, pastries are very popular in the Tyrol, including the sweet dumpling varieties. These pastries originate from Bohemia (Bohemia and Moravia together correspond roughly to the present-day Czech Republic), were exported via Vienna to all parts of Austro-Hungary during the Habsburg monarchy and are now widely presented as typical regional dishes. They include the popular “Kaiserschmarrn” (a fluffy pancake fried in butter, broken into large pieces in the pan and served with apple sauce or jam), sweet “strudel” (no mountain hut without apple “strudel", often also curd cheese “strudel" and other types of fruit “strudel”) or pancakes with a sweet filling. Perhaps the most Tyrolean of all the pastries is “Moosbeernocken” (also called “Blaubeernocken”), a kind of pancake with bilberries fried in butter and served dusted with icing sugar.

The culinary calendar
The seasons still play a prominent role on the Tyrolean table. In spring, Tyroleans look forward to the first watercress, whose spicy sprouts are eaten in salads or sandwiches, and radishes, which can be cooked to make a soup or, like the watercress, eaten on bread. In late spring and early summer the short asparagus season is enjoyed to the full. Soon after that, cherries and the first summer berries appear, which makes it time to start boiling fruit to make jams and compotes for the months ahead.

The Tyroleans also enjoy a range of typical autumn fruits, including plums, apples, pears, and bilberries (blueberries) and cranberries. The berries especially are used to make jam or pastries. Autumn in the Tyrol is also the time for picking mushrooms, which find their way into spicy dishes and sauces. The best known mushrooms are chanterelles and ceps (porcini), which are eaten as a mushroom ragout with napkin dumplings, in a risotto or as a mushroom sauce with meat dishes. But be careful when collecting mushrooms! If you do not know what to look for, you should get your mushrooms from the shops! Among the native mushrooms there are some very toxic varieties, and a mushroom poisoning can be fatal.

The culinary year finally comes to a close with the autumn and winter vegetables. They include various root vegetables like parsnips, turnips and pre-cooked beetroot, which is usually eaten as a salad, as well as cabbage and the slightly bitter winter lettuce varieties. For the meat eaters, this is also the season for game, especially deer, stag or chamois, which calls for the above mentioned cranberry sauce! The end of the year is marked by biscuits and pastries, including fruit loaf, which are traditionally baked in the run-up to Christmas and are eaten and offered to visitors into the New Year.

Childhood memories
Some dishes and tastes which are rarely to be found on the menu in a restaurant are part of the Tyrolean identity and probably a childhood memory for every Tyrolean. That applies to chive or radish sandwiches, for example, i.e. slices of brown bread and butter covered with chopped chives or slices of radish – or “Krautfleckerln”, small squares of pasta mixed with fried white cabbage. It seems to be an article of faith whether they should be sweet or savoury. No such list would be complete without elderberry juice, a syrup made with the flowers of the elderberry bush, which can only be picked on a few days of the year, with the exact dates depending on the altitude. The Tyroleans have their secret recipes for the syrup, with sugar and lemon and possibly rum or other extras. To make a refreshing drink, the syrup is diluted with tap or mineral water. Excellent syrup and delicious compotes can also be made months later from the bluish-black berries of the elderberry bush!

If you are offered any of these specialities in a mountain hut, do not hesitate to discover these typical Tyrolean tastes!