Depends who you ask! Despite being heralded as the national dish, Rösti holds its state court only in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and in fact, the border between the German and the French speaking parts of Switzerland is known as the Rösti-border. In the East of Switzerland this dish is so historically rooted that it is even a family name – a few hundred Swiss still have Rösti as their surname.
The term Rösti originally stood for any good roasted food. Nowadays, it’s a shortened form for ‘Härdöpfelrööschti’ (potato Rösti). The most basic form of Rösti comes from grated potatoes, baked in a frying pan into a golden brown cake—setting the Swiss Rösti apart from German Reibekuchen or Kartoffelpuffer and the Spanish Tortilla, which require the addition of flour or egg. The closest to Rösti in consistency is American Hash Browns, which are made with larger chunks of potato.
You say raw potato, I say cooked potato. He says “out of the bag potato”.
As simple as it sounds, there’s much secrecy surrounding the creation of perfect Rösti. Every chef believes he has found the magic technique. It begins with the quest to find the ultimate grater, then comes the search for the perfect type of potato, and of course, the cardinal question: ‘raw or cooked potatoes’?
Of course, Rösti is now also available out of the bag. We’ll let you do your own research on that front, perhaps you can find the perfect brand. There’s also many variations on traditional Rösti these days—try it with bacon, apple or pear or with cheese etc. Rösti has even been upgraded to gourmet status with sides such as smoked salmon.
But which is the best—traditional? Nouveau? Asian Fusion? Out of the bag? Grandmother probably knows best, but her lips are sealed.