When I was back home a few weeks ago I took a trip up to my mothers home and where she grew up; Alsace. Alsace is a region right on the border of Germany and Switzerland, and it has alternated between French and German control over the centuries and the wars. Home of sauerkraut and known for its sausages, the cuisine truly reflects the cultures of this to and fro between the two countries. My earliest memories of going to visit my auntie in Alsace always feature a homemade “choucroute” for lunch and cold sausages, hams and meats for dinner (as hot meals are traditionally eaten at lunch).
This time around we timed our visit for the Christmas markets, which I was SO excited about. Okay, I was the one to time the visit. The Mulhouse Christmas market is just so festive and the Strasbourg one is HUGE! So obviously, both will feature in this post. Did I make my parents go every day of the week while we were there? Hard yes. As you will see, I did not go hungry.
To start: Pretzels and all things pretzels. Hard to pass up one of these babies whilst in Alsace. And they are hard to avoid as the stalls are riddled with hanging pretzels and pretzel sandwiches, pretzel buns, pretzel bites, pretzel people?? Surely feels that way. A pit stop in Colmar where the first picture was taken, with the beautiful traditional houses in the background.
Another delight that I’ve always enjoyed in the winter are “marrons chauds”, or roasted chestnuts. These were purchased from a small cart by the giant Christmas tree in Strasbourg.
Le manala; a relatively unsweetened brioche that my mother grew up eating, and me in turn whenever I visited Alsace. The brioche is denser than others so will leave you full after only one! Although I could eat a whole family of manalas. Maybe even an army. The shape is supposed to commemorate Saint Nicholas, which is the traditional date they were eaten on.
“Boule de Neige”, or snowballs, were one of my favourite treats when I was younger. Traditionally filled with sweet marshmallow-like mousse, I used to ravage these whenever we popped over to Switzerland – my mum rushing over for cheaper fuel prices and me tagging along for these little jewels and these only.
And finally, the piece de resistance, the masterpiece, the OOOMMPHHHH factor of the week:
The salmon sandwich from the Finnish stall at Strasbourg Christmas market… me oh my. Each year, the city chooses a country to be the “guest” at the market and who will have their own section to showcase whatever products they would like within 4 to 5 stalls. This year, Finland gave me the best salmon sandwich I have ever had. And I eat a lot of salmon, believe me. They called it flamed salmon, where they hung the fillets on a wooden surface, to be licked by the flames of a fire (see pictures). Cooked in this way, the fish became so tender you hardly needed to chew! Combined with their pickled onions and homemade tartare sauce to match, the combination was a simple but deadly one.
Now if you are ever in Alsace around Christmas time, I hope you realise the life-altering mistake of not going to the Christmas markets, if only to fill your stomach.