For most Liechtensteiners, merely the thought of this dish triggers eager anticipation of a delicious meal and is simultaneously a subject for heated discussions. Some Käsknöpfle are more equal than others.
Each family has its own recipe, which is guarded like a priceless treasure, and is passed on to the next generation. Whereby the secret has less to do with the method of preparing the pasta, than with the cheese mixture that is added to the Knöpfle. For many decades, the mixture used by the Biedermann family at the Wirthschaft zum Löwen restaurant in Hinterschellenberg has been considered particularly successful and tasty. For many aficionados, their Käsknöpfle are quite simply the best to be found far and wide.
The best? Othmar Oehri laughs heartily and shakes his head. Although his Käsknöpfle are famous far beyond the national borders, the Ruggell-born Oehri is modest: A definitive recipe does not exist. Some like them like this. Some like them like that. Oehri, who retrained as a chef after previously working in other fields, does not like being in the limelight. If guests like the food so much that they recommend us to others, then that is ample praise for me. Satisfied guests are the best accolade you can have. In addition, it is not even his Käsknöpfle recipe, stresses Othmar Oehri, and turns his gaze to his wife Myriam. It comes from her mother. And she took it on from her mother.
The recipe has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. Othmar Oehri is the first man to whom the delicious secret has been revealed. The ingredients and method of preparation have not changed since then. The dish was merely brought gently into line with contemporary dining habits. Why should I change the recipe? asks Othmar Oehri with a broad grin. People like the Käsknöpfle dish just the way it has been prepared for decades. Tradition oblige, as they say. If this maxim was not already so hackneyed, it would have to be written in capital letters above the entrance to the Wirthschaft zum Löwen, which first opened in 1847, in the picturesque village of Hinterschellenberg. The one-time farmhouse, which was built more than 450 years ago, was exactingly and tastefully renovated in 1975, and has been a protected historical building ever since. The restaurant has three cosy parlours, with seating for a total of 75 guests, as well as two terraces with a further 60 seats. The panoramic views from the welcoming, spacious terrace take in the landscape of the Ruggeller Riet and across to the Swiss side of the Rhine Valley, and beyond to Vorarlberg. The border area can be seen with the plain eye. In the summer, when the meteorological conditions are just right, we can see all the way to Allgäu in Germany, explains Othmar Oehri, indicating a point between Oberriet, the River Rhine and Kummenberg: Even Lake Constance can sometimes be seen, although only as a thin, silvery strip. From spring to autumn the Löwen is a popular stopover for hikers and cyclists.
Most guests request the original Käsknöpfle. Also very popular, however, are brawn and various innards, such as delicate, roasted veal liver. In addition to traditional fare, the Löwen also offers varied, seasonal, contemporary dishes. These are overseen by Karl-Heinz Charly Kirschner. Born in Upper Austria, he spent 34 years working in some of the worlds most distinguished establishments around the world, before landing in Schellenberg a few years ago. Together with Myriam and Othmar Oehri, Karl-Heinz endeavours to bridge the gap between the tradition and modernity. The common denominator for all dishes: fresh regional ingredients of the very best quality.
Text: Michael Benvenuti
Make the flour, eggs, water, pepper, nutmeg and salt into a dough, and stir well and let the dough rest for approx. 15 minutes. Pass the dough through a "Knöpfle" press into hot, almost boiling salt water. Allow the "Knöpfle" to swell in the water, and then place in a bowl together with grated Appenzell cheese and sour cheese, and mix thoroughly. Fry onion rings in butter until golden yellow, and add to the mixture. Serve the Käsknöpfle with leaf salad, potato salad or apple purée. Tip: If the Käsknöpfle are too dry, then add a little hot water before mixing them with the cheese.