To Eat Like a Berliner

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By now, it’s no secret that I love to eat the food wherever I go. I’m fairly certain that travel is death to picky eaters – the more you travel, the more you’re willing to try. Another way of looking at it: the more you travel, the more you realize that PB&J is simply not an option (literally – many people don’t even know what peanut butter is over here).

I was in Germany a few weeks ago. Normally I’d write about the traditional fare, but I found something much more interesting. Before packing off to Germany, I did my usual research on food. I was familiar with almost all of what I found online; after all, Bavarian chicken dinner nights in Frankenmuth are a matter of course back home (Michigan’s Little Bavaria). One thing, though, caught my attention: Currywurst.

I read an article about currywurst, a street food favorite in Berlin, and I thought it sounded weird. Then I read the comments on the article, and I was convinced that it was weird. One comment even went so far as to say that you had to be a Berlin native in order to even think that this would sound good. Hey, I thought. When in Berlin…

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While we were in Berlin, we met a guy who had tried the currywurst before we did. His review was not encouraging. He actually flat-out told me not to try it. But I had already made up my mind, so when we came across a stall labeled “CURRYWURST” in big, excited letters, I got myself some. And let me tell you, it was some of the strangest street food I’ve had yet. And I actually enjoyed it. And then I went back for more.

So, what is it? It’s a pork sausage, grilled and sliced, and topped with a very special sauce. Some sources say that it’s ketchup mixed with mayo, others say it’s just ketchup, and still others say it’s tomato paste. At any rate, there’s some sort of tomato-based sauce, and that’s then topped with a bit of Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, and paprika. Guten Appetit!

After trying the ridiculous and surprisingly tasty street food, you might need to find something to wash it down with. We were talking with a local, and she suggested that we try Berliner Weisse. According to her, there’s a story behind this drink. When the Protestants were expelled from France under Louis XIV (the guy who built Versailles), they needed somewhere to go. The king of Germany, at that same time, needed artisans and laborers to help rebuild Berlin. When the French came to Berlin, they tasted the beer – and spat it back out. Their refined palates, long used to good French wine, couldn’t handle the sour beer that was the cheap drink of choice in watering holes in Berlin. Wine was expensive and hard to come by, so they made do with what they had. They added fruit to the beer. This evolved into adding fruit syrup to the beer, and now there are wacky-looking drinks on tables all over Berlin that are either deep, blood-red or nuclear green in color.

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Okay, so we tried the currywurst, so why not the Berliner Weisse? I ordered a green one, and the waiter must have decided that I would like the red flavor better, so he brought that instead. This was also surprisingly tasty. It tasted more like a virgin cocktail than a beer, which I suppose was the point of adding fruit syrups to the beer in the first place. I’ll admit, it did seem a bit wimpy, given that we were in the land known for its beers, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Most bars or restaurants will sell Berliner Weisse, in both red and green flavors (in German, they literally ask for “a red one” or “a green one”), even if it’s not listed on the menu. Prost!

So, if you can get past the funny name and the goofy colors, you can find some pretty tasty food on the cheap in Berlin. Just be sure to take pictures – otherwise, people might not believe that there’s such a food as you’re describing.

Curious about Berliner Weisse? Click here.

Not too sure about currywurst? Click here.

Germany too far to go for some tasty treats? Click here.

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