Germany is famous for a lot of things—but its cuisine doesn’t really top that list. Most stereotypes around German food include sausages, potatoes and lots and lots of beer. And while these stereotypes may be somewhat grounded in fact, Germany has much more to offer—as we’ll share with you today.
If you’re in any city or town centre in the UK in the early hours of a weekend morning, then you’re likely to see plenty of half-drunk Brits heading to their nearest takeaway for chips, pizza, or the holy grail of drunk food: a doner kebab. A post-night-out kebab might be disparaged by many, but in Germany, the Döner isn’t just drunk food; it’s a street food staple and beloved by all.
(Well, probably not by the vegetarians!)
When the Germans invited Gastarbeiter (guest workers), mostly from Turkey, to their country in the 1960s, obviously they brought parts of their culture with them. This influence can be seen all over Germany today, though the Döner is perhaps the clearest symbol of this mix of German and Turkish culture. The inventor of the Döner, as we know it today, is said to be Kadir Nurman, who introduced it in West Berlin in 1972. In Germany alone, more than 3.5 billion euros’ worth of Döner is sold each year—so it really is something that took off!
Of course, there are some differences between the British doner kebab and German Döner—some argue that the quality of the German version is better but what is most interesting is what the Germans have on theirs.
When you order your Döner, you’ll be asked if you want Salat (salad), which is pretty normal. But then you’ll probably be asked if you want scharf or scharfe Soße—hot sauce. Different places add their own touches, too—there are places where you can add feta cheese!
Kebabs aside, what else does Germany have to offer?
Well, the sausages are a thing, too. There’s a reason that one of the most famous German expressions includes sausages—Alles hat eine Ende. Nur ein Wurst hat zwei. (Everything has an end. Only a sausage has two)—and it’s because Germans do seem to love them.
Bratwurst are probably the most well-known and are available everywhere; these are usually just regular pork sausages, though they can also be made from beef or veal. Currywurst, like the Döner, is a kind of fast food deal; a Bratwurst is chopped up and seasoned with a mix of tomato ketchup and curry powder. It’s surprisingly delicious and very popular all across the country.
Travel a little further south, to Bavaria—and Munich, specifically—and you’ll come across the Weißwurst, white sausage, which comes from the area. These sausages, so named because they are white, are often served with a large soft pretzel (Brezel) and mustard (Senf) and are traditionally eaten in the morning.
Even further south and, yes, you’ll be in Austria, but most of the food choices are the same. Here, they have Bratwurst and Weißwurst and also Käsekrainer, a kind of Bratwurst that has cheese in the middle. These are often served (if you’re out and about) in half a baguette that has been hollowed out, with mustard or ketchup, or both! All these Wurst (sausages) are sold at Christmas Markets, too, as a handy on-the-go snack.
Southern Germany and Austria have a lot of foods in common, including Leberkäse, a kind of meatloaf. Literally translated, the name means liver-cheese, despite the fact that it contains neither liver nor cheese—you can get a cheese-infused Leberkäse called, creatively, Käseleberkäse (cheese-liver-cheese). This can be bought at markets as well in supermarkets, where it is often served warm in a Semmel (bread roll). So, if you’re in Austria and looking for a quick and cheap lunch, just ask for a (Käse)Leberkäsesemmel!
One of the most famous German dishes is Schnitzel, and, like Wurst, the Schnitzel comes in many different varieties. Wienerschnitzel (Vienna schnitzel) is the most common, traditionally made of veal (though you can often get pork), and it can be served with anything—Pommes (chips/fries), Kartoffelsalat (potato salad—if you’re in the south or Austria, this is not going to be a mayonnaise-based dish; but it is lecker—tasty), or even Bratkartoffeln (potatoes cooked usually with bacon and onion). Wienerschnitzel often comes with a lemon wedge on the side, which just adds a nice sharp flavour to the whole dish.
Jägerschnitzel is another variation; this schnitzel is made of pork and served with a thick mushroom gravy. Schnitzel can also be served with Spargel (asparagus), especially during Spargelsaison (asparagus season). You’ll see white asparagus as well as the regular green at this time of year, so look out for that!
What about dessert?
Well, aside from the usual offerings of ice cream or cake, there are a few German specialties that are definitely worth trying. Apfelkuchen is a delicious sunken apple cake, with a crumb-based topping—delicious when served warm with ice cream! Pfannkuchen (pancakes) are also popular, and if you do fancy the ice cream then, if you can, order Spaghettieis. This is ice cream that is piped to look like spaghetti, served with strawberry sauce on top.
Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) is also a nice way to spend some of your afternoon and if you visit Vienna (or anywhere in Austria, really, though the authentic one is from the Sacher Hotel), then try and get your hands on a piece of Sachertorte (Sacher cake). This is a very soft, light chocolate cake, with apricot jam in the middle and covered in chocolate icing. It’s very Austrian—and very tasty.
Hungry, yet? See if you can find somewhere serving some of these dishes near you—or try a quick google and see what you can make at home! And if your hunger is also leading you to want to try learning German… well, how could we stop you? Try it on our app now; we have whole units dedicated to food and ingredients! (Here’s a tip before you start: all German nouns start with a capital letter! Did you spot it already?)
Enjoy your German learning and guten Appetit!