Who has not learned a lesson or two from the annual Oktoberfest, the largest Volksfest celebrated very nearly wherever you are in the world? This is where German music, joviality, food, and of course, lashings of beer are the order of the day. Or week. There is no judgment here.
No need to only partake over October, though. German dishes are well worth including in your everyday.
The reason for the rich heritage behind food in Germany is that over centuries the German Empire was made up of very many smaller kingdoms, fiefdoms, free cities, and duchies. The people of the Empire retained pride in their various cultures, customs, and unique dishes and food specialties. This is why the country still delights in the many and varied traditional foods of a wide range of regions rather than the country as a whole.
Off we go, on a gastronomic wanderlust through the alps, forests, hamlets, and cities of Germany.
This German answer to pasta is a simple recipe originally from Baden-Württemberg of eggs, flour, and salt mixed with a dash of sparkling water. This variety of German food is versatile, too, and can be served together with meat dishes or soup. Add Emmental or Swiss cheese to fancy it up. Or transform the dish into Germany’s idea of macaroni cheese by layering it with grated granular cheese and topping with fried onions. However you choose to serve the versatile dish, just add beer and Guten Appetit.
The story behind this German perennial credits a Berliner, Herta Heuwer, with its invention. Apparently, in 1949, Herta wrangled ketchup and curry powder out of the British soldiers there during the war. Combining these deliciously with grilled sausage, she came up with what has become, not only a classic German street food but among the country’s most renowned sausage-based snacks.
Not many foods can claim an entire museum in its honor, as does currywurst. Of the 800 million enjoyed every year in Germany, the best spot to partake are said to be Berlin, Cologne, and the Rhine-Ruhr. Add chips and ketchup, mayonnaise, or a bread roll and you’re on the right trajectory.
A national stalwart, if ever there was one among the German dishes. Fermented cabbage manipulated into a salty-sour tastebud favorite is an acquired taste. The recipe was a game changer for nutritious meals during the freezing European months of winter. Refrigeration and the luxury of cheap transport from warmer climates did not always ensure readily available fresh produce, going back to earlier times. This is where preserved foodstuffs came into their own and dishes such as sauerkraut were the answer to serve with meat dishes.
Oh yes, and for gut health, there’s nothing to rival sauerkraut!
Let’s talk sausage. Bratwurst is the German word for sausage, and it forms a delicious cornerstone of local cuisine. The humble sausage is typically served in a bread roll, with a side of potato salad or a dollop of sauerkraut. With forty varieties of bratwurst on offer, it can only be integral to the country’s dining options. Among the smoked, cured, and interesting varieties, we delve briefly into just a handful of possibilities among all on offer among the food in Germany
Fränkische bratwurst hails from Franconia, featuring characteristic marjoram.
Thüringer rostbratwurst is a remarkably spicy variety from Thuringia, the town boasting Germany’s very first bratwurst museum, opening its doors to the public in 2006.
German sausage is the wurst. Work your way through the options.
Despite the meaning of ‘ice leg’, ice is not used for the preparation of eisbein. This pickled ham hock is typically cured and slightly boiled. The Southern regions commonly prepare it by Schweinshaxe, a method involving roasting.
This is a relative newcomer to the German food lineup. Introduced in the 1960s and 1970s by Turkish immigrant workers, it quickly integrated as a favorite among German dishes.
Kadir Nurman proved a forerunner as the street seller responsible for popularizing the Turkish dish in Germany. In 1972, he served döner kebab sandwiches at West Berlin’s Zoo Station, giving the meaty treat a foot in the door. It went on to spread like wildfire through West and East Berlin, spreading in popularity from there to the rest of Germany.
At its introduction, the döner kebab was made up of meat – either chicken, veal, or lamb prepared on a spit – with onions and salad on the side. All too soon the dish progressed to be served with a choice of sauces and a generous portion of salad and vegetables. Of course, vegetarian and vegan options are now a norm, too.
Yes, I know, everyone knows that schnitzel is Austrian. Vienna Schnitzel speaks for itself, obviously. But everyone would be wrong! Schnitzel has its origins in Italy.
As Shakespeare so eloquently put it: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” Austrian, German, or Italian – the crumbed and fried meat cutlet is celebrated as a popular addition to German dishes. In fact, it has ensconced itself as a German food through a unique German variation. The authentic Austrian or Vienna schnitzel or Wienerschnitzel must be made with veal. This is actually a legal stipulation!
As a food in Germany, however, tenderized pork and turkey are used in most traditional restaurants where it is served with fried potatoes. The German variety is also not served plain as in Austria but topped with any of one of a selection of sauces. Jägerschnitzel is topped with mushroom sauce, zigeunerschnitzel with bell pepper sauce, and rahmschnitzel with a creamy sauce. However you enjoy a schnitzel, in Germany, it goes well with a cold lager or a Franconian apple wine.
Black Forest Gâteau or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
We did say seven German dishes, but this gâteau synonymous with Germany must absolutely be mentioned as a kind of dessert offering now that we are done with the main meal.
You may be surprised to learn that the Black Forest Gâteau isn’t named after the Black Forest at all. There are two possible reasons behind the naming of this chocolate, cherry, and cream dessert, and these are:
- The German name for this delight is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Let’s break that down for a hint at the origin of the name. Schwarzwälder is the German term for the Black Forest. Kirsch is an alcoholic drink made from cherries, and together with cream and cherries made up the original version of this German food Chocolate cake was a latecomer to the dish.
- The people of the Black Forest region traditionally wore a Bollenhut, a hat topped with bright red pom-poms. It is believed that the Black Forest Gâteau was inspired by this traditional costume.
Germany is the origin of many of the world’s most prolifically enjoyed foods. Come to the city of Hamburg to experience where the hamburger got its name. Frankfurt is obviously the namesake of the Frankfurter hot dog and Battenberg cake gets its name from the German town of Battenberg.
Find out the ins and outs of the ETIAS visa before planning a gastronomic adventure to Germany.