I visited Berlin a couple of months before the Covid pandemic hit, back in November 2019. Whilst I was there, the city was celebrating 30 years since the fall of the Berlin wall, a wall that divided families and loved ones for almost thirty years. I highly recommend Berlin, not just for its fascinating history, but also for its fantastic food. Below I will take you through a whistle-stop tour of the dishes I tried, tested and loved (and a couple that I didn’t have time to try but wish I had).
If you go to Berlin for one thing (other than the history) it’s worth going for the Currywurst alone – nothing I’ve tried in London even comes close!
It was invented in 1949 by Herta Heuwer, a food-kiosk owner, who created the delicious sauce using traditional ketchup and curry powder given to her by British soldiers. The dish grew in popularity and was particularly popular amongst construction workers who would have currywurst for lunch whilst rebuilding the city after the Second World War. It’s no surprise that it continues to be one of Berlin’s most popular meals today.
It’s a beautiful medley of slowly boiled and then fried sausage with what I can only describe as a ketchup x1,000 sauce, with curry powder, chilli and goodness knows what else. (I think each food kiosk has its own secret recipe to get the balance of flavours just right). It’s served with freshly cooked chips on the side, delicious when dunked in the sauce. If you find yourself in Berlin it will be almost impossible to miss and really is the perfect lunch to grab whilst you’re on the move especially on a cold day.
Steins of beer (with a side of chips)
When in Germany, you can’t miss out on the beer scene. It’s not normally my go-to drink but there’s something about having a huge stein of beer bigger than your head just for the experience (even if you don’t like the taste). It turns out that the Germans also share our love of beer gardens, sadly I visited in rainy November, but definitely worth visiting if you go during the warmer months. If you want to experiment with your beer then Berlin is the place or, if you want to take your love of beer further, Oktoberfest runs annually in Munich.
As beer gardens were out of the question, I instead went to a beer house. I was met by long wooden tables and benches (picture the darts in the UK), a full-blown brass band and lederhosen clad waiters. What’s not to love! Make sure you have a side of chips with your beer as a reward for all the walking you’ve probably done.
Another great dish that I had in Berlin was a slow cooked pulled pork sourdough sandwich with mustard mayo and topped with the key ingredient Sauerkraut.
Invented long before refrigerators, Sauerkraut has always been a popular aspect of European cuisine as it was a way for people to get their nutrients from vegetables without having access to the fresh produce. It is finely chopped raw cabbage that has been fermented or pickled which sounds less appetising than it is. But I thought it was great – it’s zingy, sharp and adds a nice crunchy texture to dishes, it pairs particularly well with pork.
Other dishes that Germany and Berlin are known for, but I didn’t have the chance to try in my short trip include:
This is traditionally finely cut and pounded veal (but also sometimes pork) that is coated with flour, dipped in egg wash, rolled in breadcrumbs and then fried until crispy. It’s served with a slice of lemon and a side of potatoes, be that wedges or chips, both sound delicious!
I am yet to be lucky enough to have tried a proper apple strudel. Apple strudel which translates as ‘apple whirlpool’ in German, is an extremely popular dessert across Germany, that actually originated in Austria. It is a high gluten pastry that is stretched and rolled out till it’s wafer thin often to the size of a large table! It is then topped with apples, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and breadcrumbs, rolled up and cooked. It is normally served with cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream – delicious!
If you would like to see this mesmerising process in action, check out this video.
So, there you have it, a whistle stop tour of my top five German dishes that you won’t be able to miss if you visit Berlin.