Handkäse mit musik (“handcheese with music”) is a Hessian specialty. Based on curdled sour milk, the cheese’s already pungent odor is exacerbated by a topping of raw, white onion vinaigrette. How does “onion marinade” equate to “musik”? The running joke is the music comes later—a reference to the flatulence supposedly caused by eating raw onions.
In the Southern Hesse region, locals enjoy slices of the palm-sized rounds (hence the name “handcheese”) as an accompaniment to tart apple cider, or apfelwein. Diners also top buttered bread with the translucent, yellow cheese, along with a smear of onion and caraway seeds.
Though the majority of handkäse comes with cider, some restaurants will employ a more common cheese pairing. In Rheinhessen, it’s typically accompanied by a glass of local white wine. Either way, if you’re eating like a Hessian, you can expect rank cheese, raw onions, and alcohol. Perhaps the name isn’t really a joke, after all.
Need to Know
Handkäse mit musik is served throughout the Hesse region in Germany. Look for it on traditional restaurant menus and in cheese shops. It's often served with only a knife. Just slice, stab, and eat.
Where to Try It
Lohrberg SchänkeAuf dem Lohr 9, Auf dem lohr 9, Frankfurt, 60389, Germany
A bustling restaurant that serves handkäse and other Hessen specialties.