Five Foods To Try In Germany
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m truly happy I finally made it to Germany last year and have no idea why it took me as long as it did! Although I did find the food to be incredibly rich and heavy, I still thoroughly enjoyed it (the irony is, I found Czech food in comparison to be a bit lighter which is comical since Czech cuisine is known for being heavy!). Due to my short time there, I didn’t get to try nearly everything I would have liked, but here are five foods I would highly recommend to first-time visitors.
Fittingly enough, our last night in Munich resulted in our most local dining experience thanks to a protest that was taking place in the direction we were originally going to go for dinner. The restaurant’s dining room was completely full (the Germans apparently like to dine lateish) and just as we were going to leave, the hostess said there was space in the bier garden. Not wanting to simply have a pretzel and beer out there, I asked if we could sit and order from the regular menu and she said yes. So off we went (albeit with your stereotypically slow European service). As it was nearing 9 PM, I suggested we split some items (this was met with a lot of consternation; a man, no matter the nationality, doesn’t split), and grudgingly that was accepted. One of them was Leberkäse, which means liver cheese when literally translated. I know what you’re thinking, liver cheese? But have no worries, there’s no liver in this. It consists of corned beef, pork, bacon, and onions, and is made by grinding the ingredients very fine and then baking it as a loaf in a bread pan until the top achieves a crunchy brown crust. It’s similar to meatloaf in terms of its look and preparation and is a specialty item found in southern Germany as well as parts of Austria and Switzerland. It resembles bologna but trust me when I say it tastes a whole lot better than your standard bologna sandwich. And yes, it’s often served with a fried egg on top.
My first meal in Germany was sauerbraten, a traditional German-style pot roast that is usually made with beef but can also be prepared with venison, lamb, mutton, or pork. It has an extremely distinct taste, thanks notably to its name-sauer in German means sour and braten is roast meat. Before it’s prepared, the meat is marinated for several days in a combination of vinegar or wine, water, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Marinating the meat for that amount of time allows it to become tender (usually a tougher piece of meat is used). These are typically served with potato dumplings (not the potato dumplings you’re used to, most likely) which I also got to sample. If you’re not huge into the whole “sausage scene” or have tired of it, try the sauerbraten. It’s like you’re having Sunday dinner at your grandmother’s, German-style.
Okay, so strudel of any kind is not unique to Germany (it’s totally a Central European thing although the question is, who makes the BEST strudel). But that doesn’t mean you won’t have ample opportunity to try it while there. We had apple strudel twice in Germany and each time was amazing. Who doesn’t love a sweet pastry laden with sweetened apple filling? Oh, and the cream, musn’t forget about fresh “out of the cow” cream (hopefully you get my meaning there).
Wursts (otherwise known as German sausage)
You’re in Germany, so be prepared for tons of wurst. If you thought there was just one or two, think again. There are dozens of wurst options (click here if you don’t believe me). In fact there’s a restaurant in Munich called “Bratwurstherzl” which serves traditional Bavarian-Fraconian fare and is famous for its Nuremberg wursts (just like with Mexico and its mole, different regions/cities in Germany are known for their wursts). Nuremberg wursts are made with marjoram.
I’m particular to the Weisswurst, a type of breakfast sausage that is white and is made from minced veal and pork back bacon. Knockwurst (or knackwurst) is from northern Germany and as part of its creation process, the sausages are aged for two to five days then smoked over oak wood. They’re usually prepared highly seasoned. In short, Germans take their wurst quite seriously.
Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle)
This was the dish I looked most forward to trying and it did not disappoint. Although given the nickname of pork knuckle, it’s really just a roasted ham hock. Although today it’s widely popular at all the tourist eateries in Bavarian cities (it was also on the menu in the Czech Republic), at one time it was considered “poor man’s food.” This describes those cuts of meats that were inexpensive and the only things destitute people could afford. On a cooking level, inexpensive cuts usually require longer preparation times. It’s usually marinated for days and then roasted at low temperature for a couple of hours. I had Schweinshaxe at one of Munich’s most well known restaurants for it, Haxnbauer I’m Scholastikahaus, which shows the roasting schweinshaxe from the street. You know you’re getting close to it when you can smell its delicious aroma.
And an honorable mention goes to the German bretzel which is truly eaten at every meal and is like the Mexican tortilla in that regard. They’re also infinitely healthier than the pretzels you get at German restaurants here in the United States -they’re not dripping in butter and grease.
While not as elegant as French cuisine or as innovative as Spanish, German fare is all about the comfort and it won’t disappoint. Just factor a lot of walking into your itinerary to offset the many calories you will undoubtedly consume.