The Wiener Schnitzel might be almost as famous at the city of Vienna itself; so much so the BBC says the Wiener Schnitzel “defines Vienna”.
It turns out however that the dish was not invented in Austria at all.
Even though there is Wiener (Viennese) in the title, the schnitzel actually originated from Milan in Italy as cotoletta alla Milanese, although the original recipe used a thicker cut of meat and was cooked with the bone in.
How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?
As with many stories delving into Austrian history, the tale of the Wiener Schnitzel involves royalty, mythology and nobility.
The story goes that Czech nobleman and Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky brought the recipe back to Vienna from Milan in 1857 after a trip there during the Habsburg rule.
Radetzky described the dish as a “deliciously breaded veal cutlet” and the emperor requested the recipe. It was a huge success and the schnitzel quickly became popular across Vienna.
Today, the humble schnitzel is the country’s national dish and a key part of Austria’s culture.
You can even find it in cafes and bakeries as a sandwich version called Schnitzelsemmel, which is a schnitzel served in a bread roll.
What is a Wiener Schnitzel?
In case there are some readers out there that are unfamiliar with the Wiener Schnitzel, it is a piece of veal that is breaded and fried, then served with potatoes and a wedge of lemon.
National Geographic describes the dish as “unassuming” but don’t let that fool you. The schnitzel dominates most menus in Austria and can even be found in restaurants specialising in international cuisine.
The schnitzel is also popular in households across the country, but outside of restaurants it is often cooked with pork instead of expensive veal.
How to make Wiener Schnitzel
Impressing your Austrian friends with a homemade Wiener Schnitzel is easy.
Simply pound the meat (veal or pork) to an even thinness. Then dip it in flour, followed by egg and breadcrumbs. Fry the meat until it is golden brown. You want it to be crispy but not burnt.
Serve with boiled potatoes and a lemon wedge. A side of cranberry sauce is optional but recommended.