How Did This Unique Take On Chinese Hot Pot Become A Swiss National Tradition?
There is one traditional dish in Switzerland that crosses the rösti divide, an imaginary line separating French and German speaking parts of the country and named after pan-fried grated potatoes with Swiss German roots. According to L’Hebdo half of the country will eat Fondue Chinoise at some point during the holidays. Skewering meat on a fork and cooking it in bouillon isn’t just a meal that unites all linguistic regions of the Alpine nation. Fondue Chinoise has become a national dish.
This Swiss Chinese-inspired fondue has more in common with fondue bourguignonne — a fondue in which thinly sliced pieces of meat are cooked in boiling oil and served with a variety of mayonnaise based sauces — than with hot pot from China. Invented in 1948 in Lausanne, fondue bourguignonne grew in popularity as Switzerland, already accustomed to fondue dining, grew richer. Eating meat became a sign of wealth and this fondue offered that prestige. As Denis Rohrer, a food historian in Vevey, tells L’Hebdo: when people in the eighties became more health conscience, oil was replaced with a vegetable bouillon.
While it’s name may suggest that it originates from China, the only similarities between hot pot and Fondue Chinoise is that it is a meal shared around a pot of broth. In China, the broth varies by region and there is a large variety of vegetables with no mayonnaise based sauces to be found. Swiss supermarkets, on the other hand, offer extensive sauce variety ready-made in jars, such as curry and garlic, most with a mayonnaise base.
What the Swiss tradition does have in common is a festive ritual and the warmth of reuniting family and friends around bubbling pots and sharing a meal. That the preparations are simple, liberating hosts from the kitchen, may also help to explain its continued popularity.
Fondue Chinoise: A lot easier and more fun than turkey