Part 1: The Good
If you ask Germans about their cuisine, they will get that faraway look in their eyes which one gets from a lot of thinking. Finally, if the people you ask are anything like my German friends, they’ll probably tell you that it’s very bland and tasteless. But they will point out that you can easily buy cuisine from all over the world in Germany which is the plus side.
Pakistani food is really tasty and spicy, no doubt about it. German food isn’t spicy. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty either. The Germans have a lot of great sumptuous food up their collective sleeve. In this post, I’ll write about the food which I’ve had and which I loved.
- Schnitzel: Schnitzel is so German that is almost a symbol of Germany worldwide. A good Schnitzel will make your day, trust me. Schnitzel can be made in many ways: there’s the Wiener Schnitzel which comes from Vienna and is made by beating the crap out of boneless meat, coating it with flower, dipping it in egg,
coating it with bread crumbs and then frying it, the Jägerschnitzel is served with a heavy mushroom sauce, the Münchner Schnitzel is almost the same as the Wiener Schnitzel but with a twist: it is marinated with mustard or horseradish (ingenious right?!) before doing all the coatings and dippings, the Rahmschnitzel is served with a heavy cream sauce and the Zigeunerschnitzel is served with the Zigeunersauce (Gypsy Sauce). They’re working on changing the name of the sauce due to the Roma taking offense. Now the Schnitzel can be made in a whole lot of different ways as well and with all sorts of meat. There’s even a vegetarian version now (preposterous!). But a Schnitzel, in this blogger’s humble opinion, is best served with a side of French fries and mayonnaise. You can’t beat that.
- Wurst (Sausages): Germans – like most other Europeans – are masters in the art of sausage making. German sausages are consumed far and wide. Germany proudly boasts 1,500 varieties of sausages. Among the most famous of these are Frankfurters from Frankfurt which are your run of the mill hot dogs and are usually boiled,
Bratwurst which is present at almost every public event in Germany and is fried or grilled, and Knackwurst which is smoked sausage having garlic in it along with the meat. Trust me, there are a whole lot of different types of sausages which I don’t have the time to research right now. I might do an article on them alone at some point. Sausages in Germany are almost always composed of pork, but are also found in beef, chicken or turkey and tofu varieties.
- Käsespätzle (Cheese Noodles): This dish comes from Germany’s Swabia region and is quite the calorie bomb. Käse means cheese and Spätzle are noodles made out of flour and egg. To make Käsespätzle you need to take the Spätzle noodles and fry them with onions. Afterwards, sprinkle cheese on them until it melts and eat this simple yet incredibly tasty dish. The magic lies in the cheese you choose because that cheese will give your Käsespätzle its flavor. I personally love it with Edam or Emmental cheese.
- Schupfnudeln (Finger Noodles): The Schnupfnudeln are quite similar to Italian gnocchi. They are basically noodles made out of egg, flour and potatoes. FYI, German cuisine makes a heavy use of potato.
These noodles are unlike anything I had ever tasted and go with all sorts of different sauces. The most boring version I make is with Maggi Seasoning Sauce (Maggi Würze) and it goes down really well. Another version I love is with Sauerkraut.
Knödel/Klösse: Called Knödel in the south of Germany and Klösse in other regions, these are boiled potato and bread dumplings. Knödel/Klösse can either be a side dish or the main dish. As the main dish, they are usually served with a mushroom sauce and fresh vegetables. As the side dish, they are served with a sauce (with or without mushrooms) besides meat.
For those who haven’t tried these dumplings before, I recommend them as a side dish. They tend to be a bit too bland on their own. Also, their chewy texture goes down better with meat rather than just a sauce. For vegetarians, the main dish option would work great with a tofu Wurst or Schnitzel.
- Sauerkraut: As far as German cliches go, Sauerkraut is the most German thing there is. It was one of the most foreign things I ever tasted here and it was love at first bite. Most other foreigners I know do not like this, so if you’re a foreigner try it in a little quantitybefore you order a whole lot of it. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage and is served as a side dish. It comes in varying degrees of sourness and can be so sour at times, it’ll make your eyes water. I prefer the mild version. If you buy Sauerkraut in the supermarket, taste it first. If it’s too sour for you, drain the liquid and wash it with some water. Voila! It’ll be mild and will go great with a meat dish. I apologize to vegetarians at this point for my lack of sensitivity.
- Maultaschen (Filled Dumplings): Another Swabian dish is the Maultaschen which is simply pasta dough with a filling. The filling can be anything from meat or vegetable to cheese to a combo of these. Maultaschen are usually served with a thin
soupy sauce but can also be served on their own. The European Union has recognized Maultaschen as the cultural heritage of the German state of Baaden-Württemberg to which the region of Swabia belongs. My personal favorite version of the Maultaschen is with a filling of spinach and ricotta cheese.
- Brathering (Fried Herring): We have barely talked about fish until now, but it must be noted that Germans make really good herring. My particular favorite is the Brathering,
which is fried and marinated herring. The herring filet is first covered in breadcrumbs and fried. Afterwards – this was astounding to me that this part comes after the frying – the herring is marinated in brine. You can eat it either warm or cold. I prefer it warm because I’m not a fan of cold food. Heating the fish in the brine makes it really tasty because the sourness seeps into the fish meat.
- Bratkartoffeln (Fried Potatoes): German fried potatoes are quite easy to do and are done in a jiffy, providing you’re a fast peeler. Potatoes are peeled, cut into thin strips and fried with onions and (mostly with) Speck (German bacon).
Some people prefer boiling the potatoes before they fry them, but I have never had them that way. For those who – like me – do not consume pork, not adding the Speck does not seriously alter the taste, if my German friends are to be relied on. I have yet to find a vegetarian version of Speck and would like to give that a shot. Take home lesson here is, this is the easiest German food to make ever. Bratkartoffeln can be deep fried and made in an oven as well.
- Frikadellen (Meatballs): German meatballs are made out of minced meat, salt, pepper, egg (to hold everything together), boiled rice (not everyone uses them) and breadcrumbs. The mixture is, surprise surprise,
pressed together into the shape of balls and then fried. It can also be deep fried. I don’t like the later kind, though. Frikadellen are usually served with any kind of sauce which would go with meat. Vegetarian variations with tofu replacing meat are quite common as well. Frikadellen reminded me of Pakistani Shaami Kebabs which are quite similar in look but different in taste due to the spices we add.
- Gänsebraten (Roast Goose): This dish is a typical main dish on Christmas in Germany. And boy do they know their goose. Gänsebraten is usually served with a side of Rotkohl (red cabbage) and Klöse. I seriously ask you,
my readers, to please eat it once in your lifetime. If it is made by a German woman who knows what she is doing (I recommend getting your hands on an Oma; German grandmother), the flavor of the goose is really brought out and the meat will satisfy your palate to the fullest. First time I had it, I oohed and aahed through the whole dinner.
- Currywurst (Curry Sausage): Currywurst is one of the most common takeaway snacks in Germany. The people here love it, and rightly so. There is a conflict between Berlin and cities in the Ruhr valley about who makes the best Currywurst. A detailed analysis can be found here. The Currywurst is a sausage (usually of the Knackwurst persuasion)
which is first steamed and then fried. It is then cut into slices and served in a tomato based sauce or ketchup, sprinkled with curry powder. Curry powder, for those not familiar with the term, is a Western invention mixing several spices from the Indian subcontinent into one. Of course, all sorts of varieties of the Currywurst exist with assorted meat and vegetarian versions.
- Döner: I will end this post with the most epic of German foods: the Döner. Invented by Turkish immigrants to the Bundesrepublik, the Döner is the uncrowned king of German takeaway and snack food industry.
It is the most popular snack and has spread to all of Europe as well as Turkey, the Middle East and North America. It’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Spiced meat rotates on a spit which cooks it. The meat is served in pita bread, flat bread or sandwich bread (not so common) with a generous helping of many fresh vegetables, goat cheese and Tzatziki. The more inventive outlets add a few French fries to the mix as well.
That’s it for now, folks. But keep in mind that Germany has a whole lot of different foods, which I may decide to explore in a second post. These are just the ones I have eaten until now and have come to love. I hope you try these as well and get rid of the notion that the cuisine here is bland. Like most countries in the world, Germany has a rich cuisine. Do keep in mind, that this was the first post in a series, and more will follow.