Updated: Nov 23, 2020
If you are not hungry as you begin reading, I guarantee you will be by the end of the feature. Let’s talk about food then.
Germany is an exceptionally diverse country and the nation’s dining scene reflects that diversity. Germany itself is part of a larger cultural region which not many people know and being surrounded by many other countries in Central Europe and sharing many traditions with neighbouring countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic does mean culinary advantages. Regions in the south, like Bavaria and Swabia, share dishes with Austria and Switzerland as part of their cuisine.
Meat is usually braised but the ubiquitous sausage can be fried, baked or boiled and other fried dishes do exist, but these recipes usually originate from France of parts of Austria Several cooking methods used to soften tough cuts have evolved into national specialties, including Sauerbraten (sour roast), involving marinating beef, horse meat or venison in a vinegar or wine vinegar mixture over several days.
Of salt water fish, Pollock is the most common. Popular freshwater fish on the German menu are trout, pike and carp and European perch also are listed frequently. Seafood traditionally was restricted to the northern coastal areas, except for pickled herring, which was often served in a Fischbrotchena , as Rollmops which is a cylindrical shape around a piece of pickled gherkin or onion), or Brathering which is marinated herring fried not to dissimilar to some Scandinavian dishes.
The Michelin Guide of 2015 awarded 11 restaurants in Germany three stars the highest designation, while 38 more received two stars and 233 one star, so not too shabby in the scheme of things. As of November 2017, Germany had the fourth-highest number of Michelin three-star restaurants in the world, after Japan, France, and the United States. German food is quite delicious really and although some is similar to that served in other countries, Germany does have its specialities.
If you are over here on holiday on your first visit and haven't a clue about eating out or shopping then let us start with something that is more basic. Depending on where you happen to be in Germany some things may be named differently, take bread rolls for example. There are many names for the simple bread roll but a few names “stick out” more than the others.
To start off with the common name for a bread roll is Brötchen which literally means “small bread” – down south in Bavaria and a couple of regions in the former GDR close to Bavaria, the word Semmel is common – although aware of this I still once used the word Brötchen whilst in Munich which cause a little confusion. To my surprise the lady serving didn’t understand what I meant, even though Brötchen is the most common word for bread roll in Germany. To the West of Bavaria lies Baden Württemberg, the word Weckle, also Wecken is used here and if you’re in Berlin then get used to Schrippe. Further to the north you may even hear the word Rundstück literally meaning “round piece” but of course you guessed that. There are many more variations and some towns or cities sometimes have their own individual name for a bread roll, one example being Krosse in the city of Bremen in the North West.
While this "confusion" of bread names may seem strange it is no different from the regional differences one finds in the UK with "Roll, Bap, Batch, Cob or a Barm?
What else do Germans eat? Well chips or rather French Fries specifically, they eat a lot but as the title of this editorial suggests, Bratwurst is KING.
For anyone who has no idea what one is, it is simply a relatively large sausage of the fried variety commonly prepared, if buying whilst out and about over a gas or charcoal grill. Invariable when eaten at home they are fried or, of course BBQd. What do you eat them with? Well, normally, a Bratwurst is eaten with Senf – mustard. However, according to some websites Germany’s most popular dish is actually the Currywurst which is simply a Bratwurst covered in Curry Gewürz Ketchup, a spicy curry ketchup on top of which curry powder is sprinkled; and the Germans have got it spot on here as a Currywurst is the perfect accompaniment to a few beers.
Schnitzel or escalope in English is very common in Germany, they just love their veal – there are a few variations with Jägerschnitzel being the most popular followed by Zigeunerschnitzel and Wienerschnitzel – Jägerschnitzel, meaning Hunters Escalope, is dressed with a special thickened mushroom sauce and Zigeunerschnitzel, meaning Gypsy Escalope, is dressed in a special tangy sauce based on tomato paste with pieces of ball pepper and onions being further ingredients. This used to be my favourite before I turned Veggie a couple of years ago. Wienerschnitzel which is the most widely known by British audiences, is basically escalope fried in bread crumbs and often eaten with Senf and if you are out and about you may want to try a Frikadeller which is a tennis ball-sized meat ball usually accompanied by senf or mayonnaise.
Bratwurst, Currywurst and the Schnitzel variations are very often eaten together with French Fries, pre salted and dressed with either ketchup or mayonnaise and, on your plate in a restaurant you will probably find a small portion of salad to go with it.
And what, I hear you say of vegetables and other healthy stuff. A typical winter dish from Northern Germany, Gruenkohl und Pinkel consists of finely chopped kale that is cooked with lard and onions, accompanied by smoked sausages made from pork meat and grits, called Pinkel. The dish is commonly served with either boiled or fried potatoes.
Asparagus is also a very popular vegetable in Germany and is seen often as a starter or main course with served with potatoes and a sauce similar to Hollandaise.
As the name suggests Leipziger Allerlei, this specialty hails from Leipzig, and it is typically based on a mix of vegetables. The dish usually consists of a combination of young vegetables, crayfish tails, morel mushrooms, and bread dumplings which are doused in a creamy, buttery sauce.
Typical vegetables used in the preparation of this regional dish include carrots, asparagus, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and peas. Leipziger allerlei is traditionally enjoyed in May and June, either as a main course or a side, and it is often sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley or chervil on top.
Whatever tastes you have, Germany will not disappoint with one exception being vegetarian food but they are catching up, I promise!