The English term schnitzel means in general all types of breaded, fried flat pieces of meat. Due to the similarity between schnitzel and escalope, in many countries, people sometimes refer to it as escalope, and vice versa.
AUSTRIAN gastronomes like to make clear at the outset that Wiener schnitzel — literally, Viennese cutlet — did not originate in Vienna.
As for Wiener schnitzel, they will cheerfully recount to you its non-Austrian origins at the same time as they prescribe the qualities it should have in order to be considered authentically Viennese.
The dish came to Austria from Italy; almost all schnitzel historians agree on that. But specifics as to time, place and personalities involved get fuzzy.
According to one story, Field Marshal Radetzky, on his return to Vienna from the battle of Solferino, spoke so enthusiastically of a breaded veal cutlet he had eaten in Milan.
In any event, veal cutlet prepared in the Milanese style didn’t originate in Milan. Legend has it that the Spanish soldiers of Emperor Charles V breaded and fried their meat in the same way during their occupation of Rome in the 16th century. Nor was that the beginning, since Spain is said to have acquired the dish when the Arabs invaded Andalusia in the eighth century.
But the Arabs didn’t invent it either, but brought it back from one of their forays into the provinces of the Byzantine empire…
There are a few variations of the origin, but one thing is clear, the Austrians are all out to make it an art.
A Wiener schnitzel is a 85 – 170 gram thin slice of veal covered with crumble which is fried and can be served with a lemon slice or with potato salad, French fries, buttered boiled potatoes or with jam.
The name (Schnitzel) means “a schnitzel originating from the capital of Austria – Vienna”. In fact, the term “Wiener Schnitzel” is trademarked and protected by Austrian laws which require that a dish can be called “schnitzel” only if it is made of veal.
Even though the law requires that a it can be called a schnitzel only if it is made of veal, other alternative dishes also known as schnitzel are made from thin and pounded pork, beef or chicken as well.