5 Must Try Local Vegetarian Dishes in Switzerland

20 Apr

Sampling local food is an important aspect of any travel journey especially when it comes to exploring local cultures. Food is that essential link that helps us understand the place we are in better and bond with the locals. However traveling as an Indian vegetarian can be quite challenging in many countries. But on my recent trip to Switzerland I got a chance to sample numerous local dishes that were vegetarian. As one of our guides explained to us, Switzerland was traditionally a country of farmers and hence they ate what they grew or made. Thus potatoes, milk and cheese were and still are an important part of their cuisine. Also geographical proximity to Germany, France and Italy have also lent their character and flavor to Swiss food. The resulting cuisine is a vegetarians delight with a beautiful combination of local produce, flavors and traditions.

And based on my own experiences, please find below 5 local Swiss dishes that should definitely be on the must try list for every vegetarian visiting this country -

1. Fondue – I know this may sound like a no brainer or cliched but sampling a fondue in one of the local Swiss restaurants is a must. Invented by the Swiss centuries ago, it was their way of eating bread and cheese during the cold winter months. And today it has a come a long way, with a huge global following of its own. Still there is something about eating this dish in a country where it was actually born. And a chance to dunk those bread pieces and fresh vegetables in glorious molten cheese and then eating it – well I am definitely not complaining  :)

Swiss Fondue with bread  and vegetables

Swiss Fondue with bread and vegetables

2. Rosti – This is another iconic or rather a classic dish of Switzerland. Originally served as a breakfast food item, it is now served across meal times and in many versions. It is basically thinly grated potatoes, pan-fried until golden and served with a variety of toppings or gravy. Many areas also serve their own local versions of a Rosti. But beware this can be a pretty heavy meal by itself.

Rosti with fresh vegetable toppings and a sauce

Rosti with fresh vegetable toppings and a sauce

3. Local Cheese Slices & Steamed Vegetables – Switzerland is known for its cheese particularly, Emmental, Gruyere, Vacherin and Appenzellar. These cheeses, unlike their Greek and Italian counterparts, are pretty strong and have a distinct flavor of their own. Hence sampling some of these local cheeses is a must. Additionally, in many places along with cheese slices they serve boiled vegetables as a side dish. I had ordered this once and especially loved the cooked chestnuts and their version of potatoes.

Boiled Vegetables with another version of a Rosti

Boiled Vegetables with another version of a Rosti

4. Raclette – This is one meal that has come to be synonymous for me with eating great raclette cheese that has been melting in a Raclette machine and spending hours chatting away with friends (while that cheese melting happens). Raclette is a local hard cheese that is customarily grilled slowly over a fire (now also portable machines), with boiled potatoes, pickles and onions. And it has also come to be one of my favourite cheeses. Though this can be had at restaurants, I recommend try this with a local family where everyone sits around the table with a machine in the centre that grills the cheese. Till the cheese is getting ready you enjoy the very many side dishes and company of some amazing people.

Raclette machine and the spread

Raclette machine and the spread

Cooked Raclette

Cooked Raclette

5. The Swiss Pastas – Switzerland’s proximity to Italy has created some unique pasta dishes here – kind of Swiss Italian pastas. Borrowing flavors from both Swiss and Italian kitchens and some different cheeses, the pastas here are a definite must try.  I had pasta in each region that I visited and have one favourite in each place. :)

Swiss version of a Spatzli Pasta

Swiss version of a Spatzli Pasta

Swiss version of a Cannelloni Pasta

Swiss version of a Cannelloni Pasta

Hence the next time you find yourself in Switzerland, please do leave that hunt for an Indian restaurant and try a hand at this amazing local cuisine :) Being a vegetarian is definitely  not a problem nor an excuse here :)

Tips for the trip -

1. The Swiss food portions are normally huge, hence order accordingly.

2. The cheese is here is not soft and light (like the Greek and Italian Cheeses) that we are normally accustomed to back at home in India. The cheeses here are strong, hard with a distinct smell. Hence do be prepared.

3. In Swiss restaurants, service charge is normally included in the bills. In case it is, you don’t need to leave any additional tip. In case it is not, then you have a choice of leaving a tip. It’s ok if you don’t want to and if you do want to then you can round it off to the nearest multiple of 5.

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14 Responses to “5 Must Try Local Vegetarian Dishes in Switzerland”

  1. richa0112 April 20, 2014 at 23:31 #

    Hey Thanks…i have started looking forward to your tips and this one surely is very helpful :)

    • getsetandgo April 26, 2014 at 10:08 #

      Thanks Richa and your kind words have made my day :)

  2. Marcia Taams May 9, 2014 at 14:24 #

    I like your blog because it has many good and helpful information. I have some friends who will leave in Switzerland and I will tell them about this article. Very useful information. Thank you!

  3. Richa Jain June 3, 2014 at 04:29 #

    Agree with all options you have mentioned.I love raclette and rosti. BTW with rosti, it is important to confirm if they have used Lard to prepare it – a common ingredient in rosti. Any suggestions for vegetarian food in Paris?

    • getsetandgo June 3, 2014 at 11:19 #

      Hey, thanks for the heads up and I’ll check on that from next time… Unfortunately, I havent been to Paris yet :(

  4. Mukund Kaashyap June 3, 2014 at 09:12 #

    Have you been to the HILTL restaurant in Zurich? It’s Europe’s first ever veggie restaurant. It’s a wee on the expensive side, but both the food and the ambience are off-the-charts!

    • getsetandgo June 3, 2014 at 12:06 #

      Yes, I have and loved it… I also loved the concept of paying by weight :)

  5. Pawan June 3, 2014 at 20:46 #

    which restaurants would you recommend to try the pasta and rosti

  6. kalpana dave June 4, 2014 at 11:02 #

    Just wanted others to know that cheese as all think is vegetarian i, unless it has vegetable rennet or microbial rennet is NOT VEGETARIAN. Especially in countries outside India. You will have to ask the questions at the place you are eating to get he answer. Most of the cheese produced uses animal rennet.
    here is an article fro http://www.vrg.org
    t’s getting easier to find vegetarian, even vegan, alternatives to products like burgers, milks, and sausage, and now even cheeses are available in vegetarian and vegan varieties. Many vegetarians don’t consider that some of the cheeses they are eating could actually contain unfamiliar animal ingredients. That’s right cheese, a common staple in many vegetarian diets, is often made with rennet or rennin, which is used to coagulate the dairy product.

    According to the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, rennin, which is an enzyme used in coagulating cheese, is obtained from milk-fed calves. “After butchering, the fourth stomach…is removed and freed of its food content.” After this the stomach goes through several steps including being dry-salted, washed, scraped to remove surface fat, stretched onto racks where moisture is removed, then finally ground and mixed with a salt solution until the rennin is extracted.

    you all could google rennet and get more answers

  7. Savitha June 4, 2014 at 13:22 #

    Love All these dishes – but they are NOT vegetarian! Cheese, especially Hard cheeses have Animal rennet in them! https://www.vegsoc.org/cheese

    • kalpana dave June 5, 2014 at 00:03 #

      That is what i posted before. Most Indians when they eat in Pizza hut, dominos and papa johns and other american chain restaurants in India or anywhere else in the world think their food containing cheese is vegetarian but it is not. Most american cheese producers dont consider that including rennet in their cheese would make vegetarians not consume it. Even speciality stores in india selling imported products dont know about rennet. They still sell these products as vegetarian. And our madd public in India eat them.

      • kalpana dave June 5, 2014 at 00:03 #

        typo mass public

  8. kalpana dave June 5, 2014 at 00:10 #

    here is the link containing cheese and what kind of rennet they contain..scroll down to see a chart

    http://www.jainworld.com/society/jainfood/cheese.htm

    kalpana

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