How to Survive Swiss Cheesy Winters? With Fondue Chinoise!

Zurich Christmas Market - Main Station

The winter holiday is around the corner, and "Lucy" is back sparkling like diamonds in the sky above Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. Although this winter is weirdly not chilly at all, Glühwein (hot red wine with spices) and Raclette (melted cheese) are spraying their irresistible mixed odors to draw enough traffic to Christmas markets for happy hour, such as at Hauptbahnhof underneath the Swarovski Christmas tree!


Thinly Sliced Meat for Fondue Chinoise

Grocery stores are piling up blocks of ham, oranges, mandarins, mangoes, passion fruits, dates, coconuts, peanuts, walnuts, and pomegranates (my favorite edible ruby comes in normal size or in XXL. I have not seen any size in between).

Towered chocolate bars and boxes are the center piece. And here comes the cheese fondue section! Many locals mix their own preferred selection of cheese, white wine and secret spices. Others buy instant packages or they try the local dairy farmer’s mix.

But I don’t. Instead, I would run to the freezers to grab a box of thinly sliced meat, beautifully rolled and packed like cigarettes, for Fondue Chinoise.

Fondue Chinoise at Migros

To keep their proud tradition and identity (= cheese fondue), the Swiss call this boiling meat broth "Chinese Fondue". Or, judging from the French naming, Asian style cooking might have first been tried by the French speaking Swiss with those long fondue forks instead of chopsticks.

Anyways, as a Newly Swissed Japanese American (I mean, noodle soup & meat lover surrounded by stinky cheese), I could not have survived Swiss winters without this shabu-shabu!

Fondue Chinoise

Some cook the curled up meat sheets in hot oil. My friends and families use beef broth with some herbs and wine. In fact, Grosi Heidi, my grand-mother-in-law, orders fresh meat at the butcher for our holiday gathering - no frozen meat here!

How the Swiss St. Nicholas tradition works

Fondue Chinoise

Once the broth starts boiling in the pot placed in the middle of the table, everyone gets numbered or marked forks so that you can tell your meat apart from the five other sticks in the pot...

Then, you dip the meat in mustard sauce, curry sauce, cocktail sauce, a horse radish dip or anything else you like.

This winter, I want to add some Japanese sauces like su-joyu (soy sauce + rice vinegar) and ponzu (citrus juice + fish bouillon + soy sauce + sake + sugar) to the table. Mexican salsa or Korean kimchi must be good with pork, too.

Any other suggestions?

(Photograph copyright by OK Christkindlimarkt)


Mamiko truly loves to discover Switzerland through the Newly Swissed "frame" with her Japanese eyes for details and a spark of American curiosity. She wants to connect Newly Swissed with businesses and organizations in Switzerland and expand the network.