By Briana Seftel
A trip to Bavaria, Germany wouldn't be complete without feasting on its cuisine, which is very distinct from the rest of German food. Regional specialties like pork knuckle and pretzels may not be calorie-light, but they sure are tasty. Before embarking on a tour of fairy tale castles and festive beer halls, check out this list of must-try Bavarian eats that will make you say wunderbar!
A popular brotzeit (snack) in Bavaria is brezn, commonly known around the world as pretzels. Available in many different shapes and sizes, the pretzels are washed in lye (an alkaline wash), baked, and strewn with salt, poppy, sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Served with radishes and Obatzda, a type of aged soft cheese, brezn make the perfect accompaniment to a cold mug of beer.
Semmelknödel are Bavarian bread dumplings made of breadcrumbs, eggs, onions and milk. As big as tennis balls, these fluffy dumplings are often served with roast pork, roast goose, mushroom dishes and meat-based soups. Any knödel left over can be sliced and fried until crispy or tossed with beaten eggs, fried and eaten with a side salad. Similar versions can also be found in Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Originally a peasant food, schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle, is something you'll find on practically every beer garden menu across Bavaria. Especially popular during Oktoberfest, the pork knuckle or ham hock is rubbed in salt and spices then roasted until fork tender. Many agree that the best part of this dish is the crispy, crackling pork skin.
Found on every menu in the Allgäu, kasspatzen is a hearty dish of spätzle and Allgäu cheese. Spätzle, literally meaning "little sparrows," is Germany's answer to pasta. Eggs, flour and salt are shaped into little balls by hand or pressed through a grater into boiling water, then cooked until light airy perfection. In this dish, Allgäu cheese, similar to Emmentaler, is added to create a rich, decadent sauce.
You might know Bavarian cream, but do you know what actually goes in this custard dessert? The freshest milk from Alpine cows is thickened with eggs and gelatin and flavored with vanilla before setting in a circular mold. Once set, the light custard is served with berries or chocolate. While no one knows the exact origin of this dessert, it certainly makes a perfect ending to a Bavarian meal.
Delicious wurst can be found all over Germany, but a few are Bavarian specialties. One of the most popular Bavarian sausages is Weisswurst, a white sausage served with sweet mustard and eaten only for breakfast. One of the oldest known sausages hails from the Franconian city of Nuremburg. These grilled sausages, shorter and thinner than a typical German sausage, have been traced all the way back to the 1300s. One legend says the sausages are so small because they were fed to residents through the city gates.
Another specialty of Nuremburg, lebkuchen is a Christmas dessert similar to gingerbread. Its origins can be traced all the way back to the Egyptians when it was known as honey cake, but became popular in the Franconian city during the Middle Ages. Spiced with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon and more, the small cake-like cookies are best enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee and a roaring fire.
As common as ketchup and mustard in the U.S., sauerkraut isn't just a topping for hot dogs. In Bavaria, sauerkraut is served warm and is a sour, salty side dish to rich meats like schweinshaxe and sausages. Spiced with caraway seeds or juniper berries, you may also find apples and onions mixed in with the cabbage.
Bonus: Don't forget the beer!
Over half of all German breweries are in Bavaria - that's over 600 different breweries! Not only is Bavarian beer plentiful, it's also one of the most traditional beers you'll find. The Bavarian Purity Law from 1516 is still valid to this day and states that beer can only contain hops, malt, yeast and water. Grab a cold one and say prost!