I ate and drank so many new foods in Germany, I already had to start describing some of it in previous posts, like the weisswurst mit brezn I had at Oktoberfest or the flammkuchen I had at the Rhein in Flammen. But there was so much more!
As a foodie on the road, I always want to try the foods unique to the place I am visiting. While German food is incredibly hearty and tasty, I’ve learned there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! I am fairly well known among friends and family for eating very healthy (when I’m at home). For breakfast, I typically eat a very light meal of yogurt and granola or cereal. On weekends I have egg and a small slice of toast. Germans, on the other hand, go wild with bread!
A typical weekend breakfast includes many different small loaves, rolls, and slices for individual consumption with a variety of spreads: marmalades, butter, cheese spread, Nutella, honey. Occasionally, small plates of sliced veggies and fruits (which I devoured like a deprived child) would be served. Almost always there was also a platter of meat slices and sausages and cheeses—all to have on the bread. This is not your typical bread either. Germans do bread like Americans do burgers—it’s an art. And they don’t just have one small loaf, no! They go back for a second or even a third. It was difficult not to follow their behavior and have sometimes two small loaves to start my day. My favorite was sonnenblumenkern brotchen—a small square roll with sunflower seeds stuck in it. Delicious, but several mornings in a row of this and I was feeling like Rolly from 101 Dalmations.
Once, with my cousin Veronika and Manuel, we went out to dinner at a Bavarian restaurant near Dachau. They ordered for me a typical Bavarian meal of pork drowned in gravy with kartoffelkloesse (a big, fat potato dumpling). I had just finished telling them about my observation that Germans are a bit bread-obsessed when I asked what the ingredients are in kartoffelkloesse. Veronika began describing it: “It’s basically potato, flour, egg and…it has a little piece of bread in the middle.” We all burst out laughing.
A similarly common German meal is schnitzel—breaded and fried cutlet—which I had in Bielefeld with Veronika’s sister Franziska. We went to a biergarten (beer garden) and she ordered it for me with a side of fries. This was another one of those moments where I said to myself—okay, I’ll have this meat because it’s a cultural staple (normally I do not eat pork unless it’s bacon!). I think I enjoyed the yummy crust more than the actual meat part, but I enjoyed the meal as a whole regardless.
Franziska was also the first person who introduced me to radler which I had again at Oktoberfest and also along the Rhine River with my friend Steffi. I like beer on its own (especially Germany's Augustiner) but I have a new found love for this mildly fruity concoction. I had it several times while in Germany.
I kept asking my German friends and relatives to order “something typical or authentically German” for me when out for lunch or dinner. The menu was almost always written in German with no English so they had the job of translating or just ordering something as I hoped for the best. I was always crossing my fingers I wouldn’t get any black pudding (pig blood). What followed was usually some combination of potatoes and meat and usually bread. For example, I received a meal of beans, bacon, and potatoes at lunchtime in Cologne.
A few other very typical Bavarian and German meals are bratwurst, fingernudeln, and spätzler. I had bratwust over a bed of sauerkraut at the very famous Historische Wurstkuchl in Regensberg. This came with a basket of bread and I washed it all down with a mug of beer.
I cannot begin to tell you how awesome fingernudeln is, you just have to try it for yourself. It’s basically a batter formed into long, thick noodles and fried, served over a bed of sauerkraut with bits of bacon. I never found it on a menu again after I had it at Klosterschenke Weltenburg, much to my disappointment.
Similarly, spätzler is amazing. Basically it’s a dumpling-like substitute for noodles much like fingernudeln but shaped like drops instead of fingers. It was the very first meal made for me in Germany. I proceeded to have homemade spätzler twice in Germany: once made with a creamy sauce by Steffi and Flo when I stayed with them in Hanau and another time made with cheese by my cousin Charlotte. I also ate it out at a restaurant near Chiemsee with vegetables, mushrooms, and chicken. Every time I had spätzler, I fell in love with it all over again. I decided I want to make it at home but I’ll have to buy the special kitchen device—a spätzlehobel which is a device with holes allowing the batter to drip through and create the lovely little drops of “yum!” in the pan.
During my last two weeks in Berlin, I had some eating and drinking experiences that diverged a bit from the rest of Germany. Currywurst is a specialty of Berlin—basically a sausage with curry spices. It’s flavorful and spicy—but not too spicy. I had it with fries from a cart near Friedrichshain. Apparently, the place to go (which I didn’t get to check out) is Curry 36 right next to Mustafa’s famous döner kebap cart.
Speaking of Mustafa’s—for the love of Earth—please go to Mustafa’s if you are in Berlin. I have to give another shout out to Dani (who blogs at Globetrottergirls.com) for taking me to this place for Turkish döner while she was in Berlin. I thought I had great döner before this, but it pales in comparison. Mustafa’s makes a delicious hähnchen gemüse (chicken and vegetable) filled pita with cilantro and feta on top. It’s to die for. This place is so popular, you have to arrive an hour before you want to eat because it can take that long to be served (particularly around dinnertime). The line is long but so worth it. I had it twice while in Berlin and, if I were there, I would probably do like the locals and have it almost every night. For 3.20 euros, it’s inexpensive, fairly healthy, and one of the simplest, tastiest meals I had during my entire stay in Germany.
Another Berlin staple (and spreading to other parts of Germany) is drinking Club Mate. This is basically an energy drink which all the young hipsters in Berlin drink. They drink it all day long, but at night they order a Vodka Mate. The bartender gives you a bottle, you gulp down a bunch, and then they fill what you drank off with vodka. The drink is an acquired taste, but once you do acquire it Club Mate is delicious! And you'll be right in with the "cool kids" drinking it!
Turkish food, like döner, can be found all over Berlin, especially in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg which has the largest Turkish population. One of the best places I went to during my stay was the Turkish market there (Tuesdays and Fridays). They had tons of fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, and sweets for inexpensive. My friend Frank and I went there at the end of the day, around 5/5:30pm, when they are trying to sell things off and picked up several days’ worth of food for just under 20 euro. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap photos of this market because I got so swept up in the heat of conversing and purchasing food from the stalls. It’s a bit chaotic but exciting and where I did most of my grocery shopping.
Another excellent place to grab some food is on Thursdays at Markhalle Neun—an indoor food market with stalls covering many different countries and experimental food options. I had chocolate chicken chili on a bed of mango and vegetables and rice over top of a thin tortilla. I also had some of the best ice cream ever at this place. Three different flavors—green tea, pumpkin seed, and caramelized walnut—all had an after taste of exactly what they are named. I’ve never had ice cream like it before. Amazing!
So what did I learn from the food in Germany? Next time: Pack looser pants.