The most popular and renowned dish in the entire region is saumagen, which is German for ‘sow’s stomach’. It’s a pretty spot-on name for the delicacy, which is a pig’s stomach stuffed with lean and cured pork and sausage meat, bacon, potatoes and, if in season, sweet chestnuts. This is all tied up and boiled until done. Slices of saumagen are served with fried potatoes, sauerkraut and rye bread and paired with local white wine.
Heidelberg’s most popular souvenir is a studentenkuss, or a ‘student’s kiss’. Don’t take the name too literally, though, as is it merely describes a confection made of waffle, nougat and dark chocolate. The treat was first made in 1863 by Heidelberg’s oldest café, Café Knösel.
From potatoes to yeast to bread, Germans love their dumplings and Palatinate locals are fans of a meaty variety of the dish. Leberknödel, or lewwerkneedl as they’re called in Heidelberg, can be found on many restaurant menus in the region and are made of beef liver, minced meat, eggs, soaked bread buns and seasoning and are then either steamed or sliced and pan-fried. You can often order them with soup, in gravy or with a side of potatoes and sauerkraut.
A Palatinate speciality that vegetarians can enjoy is the dampfnudeln. Part of the appeal of this regional pasta dish is that it’s so versatile—the dough is made with a no-fuss recipe of flour, yeast, milk and salt, formed into fist-sized balls and then fried and steamed in a tightly closed pot until the rolls form a thick crust. Many of Heidelberg’s traditional restaurants incorporate dampfnudeln in both sweet and savoury meals, like soup, alongside goulash or topped with vanilla sauce.
For some reason, Germans are obsessed with white asparagus and the harvesting season is rung in with the Palatinate Spargelzeit festival every year. From April to the end of June, the menus of Heidelberg’s restaurants offer a plethora of asparagus dishes. If you want to try the real deal, order a plate of asparagus with hollandaise sauce, which is made of egg yolk, molten butter, water and lemon juice.
Making these special potato Klöße is fairly time-consuming, but most locals deem it worth the effort. Boiled and grated raw potatoes are meshed together with eggs and flour, formed into balls and a piece of liver sausage is pressed into the middle of each before they’re boiled. They’re best enjoyed in a creamy sauce with chunks of bacon.
Time for dessert! If you see quetschekuchen written on the menu, you can brace yourself for a delightful slice of plum tart. Heidelberg’s regional take on plum tart is made with a sheet cake with a yeast dough base, a layer of fresh plums sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and a glaze of apricot jam. It may seem odd, but in the Heidelberg region, a plum tart is often served with potato soup, a combination that generations of Germans have grown up with.