(Photography credits: LittleCITY.ch)
What comes to mind when you think of typical Swiss foods? For me, there is no question about it: Cheese and chocolate. (And melted cheese, a.k.a. fondue.)
Other than the usual suspects, I cannot think of many other specialties from Switzerland off the top of my mind. But you know what? I decided to eat my way through Switzerland's culinary landscape! Along the way, I found out that each region - and many towns - have their own peculiar yummies...
So, here are 21 typical Swiss dishes that left an impression on me:
Torta di Pane
How to use up yesterday’s bread? Do it like the people from Sopraceneri in Ticino and create a Torta di Pane – a bread cake.
When I think of a typical Ticino food, I think of polenta. This finely grained yellow cornmeal is truly a staple food in Switzerland’s south, and it goes well with roast beef or the local Luganighe sausage.
In Switzerland’s eastern mountains, they have perfected the art of air drying beef. Traditional Bündnerfleisch meat has been cured and dried for 10 to 15 weeks in the clear Alpine air. What a delicacy!
Maluns and Bündner Nusstorte
Another popular dish in Grisons are Maluns. Prepared with potatoes, flour and butter, this typical farmer dish is a perfect companion for Alpine cheese, coffee or even apple sauce. Still hungry for a dessert? There is only one choice in this part of Switzerland: Bündner Nusstorte.
Almost every family in Graubünden has their own recipe for Capuns, a portion of Spätzli egg batter and dried meat wrapped in leaves of Swiss chard. This farmer food turned delicacy is best enjoyed with some gamey Salsiz, a type of local salami.
Switzerland’s most well-known soup is likely the Bündner Gerstensuppe. This barley soup comes in 150 or more varieties – at least as many as there are valleys in Grisons.
Ever heard of Cuchaule? This loaf of bread from Fribourg resembles challah or Zopf, except that it is yellow from saffron. The locals tell me that Chuchaule tastes best when combined with sweet and sour Bénichon mustard...
When it comes to Zürich, it is all about veal. The locals swear on Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, which is a traditional dish of veal strips on a creamy mushroom sauce with a side of Rösti hashbrowns.
I did not think Cholera sounded mouthwatering, but I was convinced otherwise: This dish was invented during the cholera epidemic in the 1830’s when people were scared to leave their homes. This delicious pie is a combination of various leftovers such as potatoes, onion, apples, bacon, leek and cheese. Never judge a dish by its name...
From the canton of Glarus comes another specialty made of leftovers: Glarner Zogglä. Have you ever heard of it? As for me, I am ready to give this dish made of eggs, flour, milk and potatoes a try... It is traditionally served with a side of veggies.
Have you ever tasted Birnenzelten? This is the original name of what is now called Biberli, a brown cake filled with almond paste which is typical in St. Gallen and Appenzell.
For those times when you simply crave for something simple, a St. Galler OLMA-Bratwurst is the answer to your call. If you want to fit in with the locals, avoid dipping it in mustard.
Get this: Salée sucrée is probably the strangest name for a sweet dish (salée means salted in French). Maybe the name is the reason why this sweet cream pie from Vaud can be enjoyed with coffee or wine...
Another specialty from the Lake Geneva region is Saucisson Vaudois. They eat this sausage with beans and bacon, or with potatoes and leek. Anything goes!
Felchen, Egli and Forellen
You may be wondering: "With all those lakes in Switzerland, what happened to fish?" If you travel to the Three-Lakes region of Lake Geneva, Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Biel, make it a point to try one of the many specialties such as whitefish (Felchen), perch (Egli) or trout (Forellen).
Älplermagronen mit Apfelmus
If you have ever hiked by a mountain hut, you have probably come across a sign that read: Älplermagronen mit Apfelmus. It is Swiss soul food of the best variety: Macaroni and potatoes with cheese, plus a side of apple sauce.
The inventive people of Thurgau have combined two ingredients that go hand in hand: Apple and cheese. Thurgauer Käseschnitten are grilled slices of bread that were first drenched in apple juice, then garnished with Tilsiter cheese, apple slices, bacon and onion. Is your mouth watering, yet?
Time for more sweets! The canton of Zug is famous for its rolling hills and cherry trees. No wonder they make the world’s tastiest cherry pie: Zuger Kirschtorte.
Meitschibei is a type of cookie that brings up memories of my childhood. Originally from Bern, the name of this hazelnut stick means as much as „lady leg“...
If you happen to be in Zürich during the holidays, make sure to pick up some Tirggel. Not only is this crisp honey cookie delicious, it features beautiful historic pictures.
This Zürich dish has gained worldwide popularity for its health benefits: Birchermüesli. Developed in 1900, this fruit salad plus cereals plus yogurt is a true classic still today. It is like breakfast that you can have for lunch or dinner.
Let's not forget about Basel, another culinary treasure trove: The floury Basler Mehlsuppe is in a head to head popularity race with the Bündner Gerstensuppe…
However stereotypical, the good old Chäsfondue deserves a mention. Some families prefer beer fondue – or they will dip pear slices instead of bread. I am curious: What is your favorite cheese fondue recipe?
BONUS: Typical Swiss Beverages
Finally, every good meal needs to be paired with a refreshing beverage. Appenzell has gained fame with no less than three popular beverages: Quöllfrisch Bier, Appenzeller Alpenbitter liquor and one very peculiar soda called Flauder.
Obviously, this list is by no means complete. Please let me know in the comments if I have missed a crucial Swiss delicacy...