Taste Vienna’s “King of Beef Dishes” while sailing the Danube River

If you ask our Viennese Co-Founder, Rudi Schreiner, which is his favorite European dish, he will instantly reply, “Tafelspitz.” This boiled veal, which we serve with root vegetables, has long been considered the “King of Beef Dishes” in Austria and its traditional preparation has remained relatively unchanged since the 19th century. However, its roots go back further than that. 

Boiled beef became popular in Vienna as early as the 16th century as cattle could easily be transported from neighboring breeding grounds. Beef soup quickly became the appetizer of choice and began appearing at every royal feast; in fact, Emperor Franz Joseph I demanded to eat Tafelspitz, which refers to the cut of beef taken from the top hind end of cattle, every day. 

If it’s good enough for a monarch and for our own “Godfather of River Cruising,” Rudi Schreiner, it is certainly good enough for you to serve at your dinner table. We invite you to try out our Culinary Director, Chef Robert Kellerhals' recipe below. 

Boiled Veal, or Tafelspitz

(Serves approximately 6 people)

Ingredients

  • Approximately 1.5 kg (3.5 lb) beef topside (or other quality boiling beef, such as center cut rump, chuck beef or brisket)
  • Beef bones, if desired / optional, as meat is cooked in the liquid
  • 1 bunch of root vegetables, such as carrot or parsnips
  • 1⁄2 leek
  • 1 large onion with skin
  • 1–2 bay leaves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Salt

For garnishing the soup, as desired:

  • Root vegetable spaghetti
  • Freshly chopped chives

Preparation

Cooking time: approximately 2-3 hours

1. Slice the unpeeled onion in half, width-wise, and fry off the cut surfaces without fat until well browned.

2. Put around 3 liters of water into a large saucepan. Add the root vegetables, leek, halves of onion, bay leaves and peppercorns, and bring that all to a boil. Add the washed meat and bones and, depending on the type of meat, allow to cook until softened in gently simmering water, which will take around 2.5-3 hours. Add more water as required and skim off any foam from the surface. 

3. Season well with salt, but only after 2 hours to avoid over-salting the broth. Once the meat has softened, remove it from the pan and keep it warm in some of the liquid from the soup. Season the remainder of the soup again with salt to taste and strain it.

4. Slice the boiled beef by cutting on the bias and serve in the hot soup.

Best served with roast potatoes, root vegetables, creamed spinach and sour crème chive sauce. If the root vegetables are to be served at the same time, cook some of them separately to be served al dente. Slice them very fine or spiral like spaghetti and serve briefly sautéed on top of the meat.

Try this savory traditional dish while in Vienna as we sail along the Danube River on several itineraries such as our brand-new 5-night Majestic Capitals of the Danube debuting in 2023! 

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