I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. Part of this is most likely due to the fact that I’m in the midst cleaning out my pantries in preparation for our move, which usually involves some interesting combinations of ingredients. Exactly how many uses can I find for chick peas? With just a little over two months to go, I’ve had to get truly creative with the ingredients we’ve got left over. No one looks forward to the menu during the final months before a move.
We are moving to Italy, a country where food is a ubiquitous part of the culture. Everyone knows Italian food, and everyone has a favorite. We didn’t know too much about German cuisine before we moved here, but it’s more varied than I could have imagined. When people think of German food, they think of things like sauerkraut, sausages, beer, spaetzli, and potato salad. All of these things can be found, of course, but there are so many other delicious foods in Germany.
Here are ten of my favorites:
1. The Currywurst – I was curious to try this popular dish, and I was seriously disappointed with my first one. The wurst was burnt, making it taste off. It is a biergarten staple, and seeing how popular it was, I was determined to give it another shot. I tried it again and I was not disappointed.
The curry seemed like an odd ingredient for a German food, but after reading a bit about the history it began to make sense. Following World War II, several unusual ingredients were readily available. One Berlin resident combined several of these new ingredients, ketchup, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce with the common German sausage and a legend was born.
Today, you can find currywurst on just about every kneiper menu, if you are a fan of curry, I highly recommend giving one a try. The currywurst is so popular that there is even a museum in Berlin devoted entirely to this street food
2. The Bayrisch Frühstück (Bavarian Breakfast) – The Weißwurst is another uniquely German sausage, I first noticed this breakfast on the menu at a bakery. What struck me about it wasn’t the sausage though, it was the fact that it came with a beer. It was before eight in the morning, and I didn’t really want a beer, so I passed on it. I noted the variety of sausage – a Weißwurst and decided to try it at home.
When I finally found the sausages at the local metzgerei (butcher’s shop) I realized I had no idea how to prepare them. I asked the ever so helpful woman at the counter, and she told me to boil them first, then slice them and fry them in a pan. Apparently, she’d never had them either. They were terrible.
A few months later, a (Bavarian) friend invited me to breakfast where she served the wursts boiled – with the outer casing removed. They were fantastic.
These days, we will frequently have a Bayrisch Frühstück on Sunday morning. It’s a fairly simple breakfast, with three basic ingredients: pretzels, weißwursts, and beer, but there are a couple of tricks to the perfect Bavarian Breakfast.
Fresh pretzels are of course essential. Although nothing beats a pretzel from fresh from the local bakery, the frozen pretzels sold in the German grocery stores are a fairly good substitute.
The next step is the wurst. I start mine in cold water, and cook them until there heated through. Make sure you don’t boil the sausages, the casings will explode exposing the inside of the sausage directly to the water. This causes the texture of the sausage to change dramatically, which means it just doesn’t taste good. It is important to have sueßsenf on the side, it truly enhances the flavor of the wurst. I prefer Händlemaier Altbayerischer Senf.
If you order the Bavarian breakfast in a restaurant, you may be surprised to find the wursts served in hot water. This keeps the sausages warm until you’re ready to eat them. Traditionally, the breakfast is served with a wheat beer.
Whether you’re enjoying the wursts at home or at a restaurant, there is a trick to eating them. I actually watched this on the German morning news one year around Oktoberfest. First, make a slit down the center of the sausage. Next, insert a spoon face down between the casing and the sausage, then slide the spoon all the way around the sausage and remove the casing. It takes a bit of practice to remove the casing without removing large chunks of the sausage, but this is the easiest way I’ve found
3. Soup – I don’t think I’ve ever had better soup than the soup I’ve eaten in Germany. The fresh seasonal soups you’ll find at restaurants are incredible and inventive. By far, the best soup I’ve ever eaten was the cream of horseradish and apple soup at the Hotel Röter Hahn in Rotenburg ob der Tauber.
Some of the other delicious soups I’ve tried in Germany are Spargle (asparagus) soup, Kürbis (pumpkin) soup with curry, and goulash soup. I’ve had soup with sliced pancake pieces, soup with maultauschen, and dumplings, meat, vegetables and cream. I would recommend never passing an opportunity to sample the soups on a menu in Germany.
4. Gröstle – This is a dish you’ll find mainly in the Alpine regions. It is a very hearty breakfast food available all day long. It’s basically a potato hash cooked with leftover meat served with an egg or two on top. It is a hearty and delicious meal.
5. Kaiserschmarren – While this is actually an Austrian dish, you will find this on menus throughout Bavaria. It is a pancake that is chopped up while it’s cooking and served with powdered sugar and raisins. We’ve eaten this both as a meal and as a dessert. The story is that this dish was created for Kaiser Franz Josef of Austria.
6. Döner – You’d be hard-pressed to find a town in Germany that doesn’t have at least one Imbuss (fast food place) selling Döner Kebabs. Although legend has these originating in Berlin, the original food goes back much farther in Turkey. The meat is shaved off a rotating spike and served in a variety of ways. You can have them in a flatbread sandwich, in a wrap, or served pizza style. My favorite is also probably the least heathy option – served in a box with fries and hot sauce. So tasty, and so bad for you.
7. Shupfnudeln – The first time I encountered Shupfnudeln was at a small fest in Baden-Württemberg. I had no idea what they were, I thought they were yellow wax beans and sauerkraut. I wasn’t even close. What I thought was a bean turned out to be a thick noodle made from potato. These noodles are then fried in butter with speck (a German style bacon) and sauerkraut. Another dish that is just so tasty, and not terribly heathy.
8. Gebrännte Mandeln – There are so many delicious foods to try at German fests, but these are my favorites. The almonds are coated in caramelized sugar, creating a delicious treat and an easily recognizable smell.
9. Glühwein – No Christmas market would be complete without sampling a hot mulled wine. I have to admit that I was reluctant to try this beverage. At Christmas parties in the States, there was always someone who attempted to make a glühwein, and I always found the spices too overpowering and the flavor too sweet. I was sure I wouldn’t like the German glühwein any better. But I was wrong. It was the perfect combination of spices served at the perfect temperature. Glühwein and the nonalcoholic Kinderpunsch are the perfect beverages to enjoy as you walk through a traditional Weinachtsmarkt.
10. Laugenbretzel, Laugenbrötchen, Laugenstange Laugenbrot – Laugen refers to the method of preparing these irresistible bakery staples. Everyone is familiar with the soft German pretzel, but you are probably less familiar with the assortment of rolls and bread which are prepared with the same method. I remember being utterly flabbergasted to discover that they had rolls made out of pretzel at the breakfast buffet in our very first German hotel. Then to find an entire loaf of pretzel bread at the bakery, was a dream come true. There is simply no tastier way to start your morning with a warm slice of Laugenbrot fresh from the bakery.
Do you have any favorite German dishes?