In New York, I used to order my most indulgent deli sandwiches piled high on Kaiser rolls. I never really thought about the name at the time and my knowledge of German was pretty non-existent. Then when I moved to Trieste, I began to hear the term used more often and made the connection that “Kaiser” referred to the Emperor of Austria and the Imperial House.
I began to hear the word used to describe routes that led from Trieste to Vienna, then a couple of restaurants in the FVG region that were supposedly favored by the Royal family on their travels through the region on their way to Trieste (La Vedova in Udine was first called “Al Kaiser”), and learned of some local culinary specialties that incorporated the name Kaiser in their names.
The prefix “Kaiser-” was in fact used to designate particularly high quality meat and products, good enough for the Kaiser and the stores of the Empire.
So joining the ranks of the Kaiser roll or Kaisersemmel, are now these (new to me) dishes:
The first one is called (a little disturbingly) Kaiserfleisch. Nowadays it refers to any tender cut of pork meat or pork belly but in the olden days it referred to cured and smoked pork meat from the back or trunk of the pig. Beloved by many in the region, this is a plate of pure comfort, served with sauerkraut and bread dumplings and spicy mustard and horseradish.
Here’s a link for a German bread dumpling recipe that is quite good: https://www.mygermantable.com/german-bread-dumplings-semmelknodel/
Another favorite is Kaiserschmarrn or “the Emperor’s Mess”. It takes its name from the Austrian Emperor, Kaiser Franz Josef I, who was very fond of this kind of fluffy shredded pancake.
Kaiserschmarrn is a popular in Austria, Bavaria, and many parts of the former Austro-Hungarian empire like the FVG region, Hungary, Slovenia, and northern Croatia.
In the States it’s often referred to as a German Oven pancake or a Dutch Baby. According to Wikipedia, The name Kaiserschmarrn is a compound of the words Kaiser (emperor) and Schmarren (a scrambled or shredded dish). Schmarren is also slang in Austrian and Bavarian to mean trifle, mishmash, mess, rubbish, or nonsense. The word “Schmarren” is related to scharren (to scrape) and schmieren (to smear).
The batter is poured into a pan and while it is frying, it is split with two forks into pieces and sprinkled with powdered sugar, then served hot with a fruit compote. Kaiserschmarrn is eaten like a dessert, or it can also be eaten as a meal for lunch popular at mountainside restaurants and taverns in the Alps.
Here’s an authentic recipe courtesy of the Tyrol blog https://www.tyrol.com/blog/b-food-drink/tyrolean-kaiserschmarrn-the-original-recipe-for-austrian-pancakes
…And of course, Wolfgang Puck has a more luxe version on BuzzFeed https://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewilnyckyj/wolfgang-puck-made-kaiserschmarrn-for-us-and-it-was-so-delic