How the small state of Saarland is giving a French twist to German cuisine

Here's what happens when the hearty German meal meets French delicacy in the border state of Saarland.

How the small state of Saarland is giving a French twist to German cuisine
Archive photo shows “Dibbelabbes”, a kind of German hash brown created from grated potato, dried meat, onions and parsley. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Eike Dubois

Germany is not known for its culinary delicacy. Between the Berliner Currywurst and Bavarian Weißwurst, the culinary theme seems to be “quick, hearty and carnivorous”. 

France, on the other hand, is still seen as a leading innovator in the cooking world. How did two neighbouring countries develop such different attitudes to food? And what happens in border counties, where they meet? 

This is the case in the Saarland, a German state that shares its entire southern and western borders with France. 

READ ALSO: Five maps that explain Saarland, Germany’s 100-year-old state

Saarland used to be the home of iron and coal mining, and so much of its traditional cuisine developed out of the “Bergmannskost” (miner’s diet). This meant substantial, high-calorie and affordable meals, largely based around potatoes. 

But because of the historical tug-of-war between the French and German borders, Saarland has experienced waves of French influence. Over time, this has created a fusion-culture that can be seen to this day: most of the population of Saarland is bilingual. 

The cuisine of Saarland has not remained untouched either, and many French dishes have found their way on traditional menus: from Schneckenpfanne (a dish of snails) to Flammkuchen (Tarte Flambé, a flat tart with onions and bacon).

The French Influence

It is said that the proportion of Michelin chefs to inhabitants is larger in the Saarland than anywhere else in Germany. Restaurants like Landgenuss, owned by the hospitality family Hämmerle, offer a menu of traditional cuisine, and still boast the Michelin star. 

Many attribute this to the French influence. Even in traditional dishes, the Saarländers are not afraid to cook with wine or work with strong flavours and spices such as mustard. 

Lyoner, the strong-tasting French sausage, has developed into something of a speciality in Saarland. 

In fact, the favourite regional dish remains a Lyoner cooked on the Saarländer “Schwenkgrill” – a grill plate suspended over an open fire – with a side of potatoes and Sauerkraut.

Archive photo shows the ‘Men’s Cooking Club Beaumarais Picard’ preparing a Schwenkgrill in Überherrn-Berus, Saarland in 2019. Photo: DPA

One man’s weed, another’s Salad 

Along with strong flavours, the Saarland adopts France’s love of seasonality. Uniting this with the affordability of ‘Bergsmannskost’, one of the signature dishes of the Saarland is Löwenzahnsalat – Dandelion Salad. 

The art of this dish is finding particularly young and soft dandelion leaves, and combining them with a honey-vinegar dressing to balance out the bitter taste. 

A German hero: The humble potato

However, no matter how much French influence skips across the border, one element of the Saarland cuisine remains distinctly German: potatoes are at the centre of everything. 

READ ALSO: Big birthday in a small state: Saarland celebrates 100-year-old history

Most of the traditional dishes are variations on the humble root vegetable. For example, there’s “Dibbelabbes”, a kind of German hash brown created from grated potato, dried meat, onions and parsley. 

The funky name comes from the dialect word for iron pan “Dibbe” and cloth or rag “Labbes”. It’s a typical comfort food associated with grannies throwing the ingredients into a big iron pot until they stick together like a kind of frayed potato-cloth. 

Another classic is “Gefillde”. These are big, round potato dumplings filled with meat such as liver paté. They’re usually served with a thick cream and bacon sauce with a side of Sauerkraut. 

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German brewers fear business going flat as gas crisis looms

The soaring cost of energy and the threat that Russia could cut gas supplies to Germany risks worsening beer makers' post-coronavirus, the German Brewers Federation said Monday.

German brewers fear business going flat as gas crisis looms

Having limped through the pandemic, the “German beer industry is still working in crisis mode”, brewing federation boss Holger Eichele said.

German brewers sold 157.2 million litres of the amber liquid over the first six months of the year, a 3.8 percent annual increase, according to figures published by the federal statistics office Destatis on Monday.

But despite the improvement, the first-half figure was still 5.5 percent below its pre-crisis level of 2019.

A looming energy crisis in Germany left little hope of a further improvement in sales in the second half of the year, according to the German Brewers Federation.

Energy prices have soared as Russia has dwindled supplies of natural gas to Germany and prompted fears of an acute shortage were it to cut off supplies completely.

“Without gas the shelves will be empty,” Eichele said.

READ ALSO: Cost of beer in Germany could soar ‘by up to 30 percent’

The scale of the energy crisis and its impact “can only be guessed at”, he added.

Brewers had endeavoured in recent years to reduce their energy usage, but it was currently “impossible” to replace gas as the most important source for the industry, Eichele said.

According to the federation, the food and drink industry is the largest consumer of gas in Germany behind the chemicals industry.

Brewing involves a number of energy-intensive processes from roasting the malt to heating the brewing tanks. The rising cost of energy is also passed on through suppliers, such as the producers of glass bottles.