Let’s try a short quiz: what is the first idea that springs to your mind when you hear the words “German cuisine”? Wait, don’t tell us, we will try to guess! Have you just thought of beer, bratwurst and sauerkraut? Bingo! The quiz is passed.
At first sight the above mentioned dishes might seem to be the three pillars of German cuisine. But let’s take a closer look. Guess what? It turns out the entire thing is full of surprises! That’s what we are going to discuss today. Sit back and relax – the story is going to be long yet exciting.
Germany and Its Regions
To begin with, let’s talk about German states – this is the common name for provinces, regions and even some individual cities in Germany. This way, the country comprises as much as 16 states, including resorts and architectural monuments, cultural and industrial centers, antiquities, mega-cities and reserved nooks of nature. There is Berlin, bursting with freedom and rebellion, and Munich, proud of its rich cultural heritage; the well-off Frankfurt and the crowded Galle, the fancy Dusseldorf and the fun-loving Baden-Baden, the busy Hannover and quite the dreamlike Bremen… As you can see, the diversity is striking.
However, all of them have something in common. No doubt – this is the incredible love for a good meal!
But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. Everything in its due time!
The Cuisine of Northern Germany
Let’s start with the north of Germany, which includes the northern and Baltic coast as well as their neighboring regions.
The most popular dishes here are those of fish, and herring is the object of particular public fascination. Germans recognize three kinds of herring: the tenderest pink Matjes whose recipe hasn’t changed a bit over 600 years, Bismarkhering which is pickled herring (the favorite dish of a well-known commander!), and Goering (also known as “green herring”) which is believed to be the key to long life. Besides this, here in the North Sea little shrimps are caught, which look suspiciously like the prawns of our Black Sea. Boiled, roasted, in salad or in soup – you can eat them in any way you please, even simply raw! Hamburg Fish Market is the perfect place if you feel like trying some local seafood. By the way, Hamburg cuisine is considered highly original among tourists on account of its uncommon product combinations that sometimes can be rather bold. Its brightest illustration is a dish that you will hardly see outside Northern Germany – the “Bohnen, Birnen und Speck” soup (“Beans, pears and bacon”). But don’t let that cool you off: for cooking this soup Germans use only small-sized, firm and sour pears that only add a faint sour note to the dish instead of fruity taste.
Another authentic northern dish is lapskaus – the heritage of northern sailors. Its main ingredients are corned beef, herring with onions, potatoes and cucumbers. By the way, every winter Wilhelmshaven celebrates the lapskaus festival, so don’t miss it if you happen to be in the area!
As for beverages, the harsh climate of northern Germany does not really facilitate winemaking, so local people prefer the renowned schnapps, gluhwein or cumin vodka “Kümmel”.
The best for last, as it is supposed to be: the dessert crowns it all! “Baumkuchen” is at the top of unusual cakes list in European cuisine. It is made of liquid dough with the addition of spices and meringues. The main trick of this cake is that a wooden roller gets coated in dough layer by layer in the process of its thirteen-fold dipping, and then it is baked over an open fire in such a way as to create the rings similar to those of a tree. The ready cake gets covered with glaze.
And now it is high time we moved further – right to the heart of the country.
The Cuisine of Central Germany
As a matter of fact, central Germany is all about industry, so the priority of local cuisine is wine, meat and vegetables.
The very heart of central Germany is Hessen – the cradle of cider, sparkling apple wine. The locals match it with the regional delicacy – canned cottage cheese with onions which bears a funny name “Handkäse”. Another popular wine is the well-known Riesling which is one of the most common grape varieties in the area.
One more local curiosity to name is the famous Frankfurt green sauce which Goethe himself adored. According to the traditional recipe, this sauce is made of 7 kinds of fresh herbs: scallion, parsley, dock, Great Burnet, borage, chervil, and cress. We advise combining it with beef or asparagus.
The most popular dishes in Rhine region are potato pancakes (twins of Ukrainian draniki), potato salad, pickled ham and beef. And the coziest atmosphere reigns in Koln around Christmastime when the oncoming holiday fills the streets with flavors of gingerbread, marzipan and almond cookies.
When in Berlin, taste the famous “Berliner Allerlei” which literally means “all that is eaten in Berlin”. It is a perfect chance to get acquainted with the favorite meal of Berliners in a single dish. Isn’t it convenient? The dish consists of pease pudding, the well-known currywurst (a roasted sausage with tomato sauce and curry), baked ham, fried potatoes, sauerkraut and stuffed cabbage and even a pork burger.
And for dessert, you should buy a Berliner doughnut. By the way, it has its own story. According to legend, there lived a young man in Berlin during the Seven Years’ War who was willing to serve in the artillery. However, no matter how he tried to join the division of Frederick the Great, his luck never favored him. But he was offered the position of a regimental baker. Being a baker without an oven is not an easy task, so the inventive confectioner came up with an idea to mold balls of dough and roast them in boiling oil. This is how the extra-popular nowadays Berliner doughnuts emerged. You will find them in every city café or confectionery, and recognize their taste at once: they are similar to regular doughnuts but deep-fried.
Some more time on the way and here we are – in the south!
The Cuisine of Southern Germany
The south of Germany is the kingdom of pastry, a variety of dumplings and flour products. For instance, the Vogtland green dumplings “knedli” are considered a part of world culture heritage. The same is about egg noodles spaetzle which are the calling card of Baden-Wurttemberg. In fact, they are very easy to cook even at home. Their taste is very similar to that of Ukrainian lockshyna. Germans like to mix it with lard or cheese. Here you can also taste Maultaschen – the local ravioli created by the inventive Maulbronn monks. The priests thought that there was no need to give up all meat during the fasting when they could just as well… hide it! Actually, some early mentions of this dish can be found even in Grimm’s fairytales. And besides, what is Germany without the universally loved sausages of every shape and size! You will find them here just as well.
As for dessert, you may try the renowned Schwarzwald cake – the chocolate biscuit with cherries and cream.
Meanwhile, our journey is approaching its end. As you can see, the German cuisine is much more varied than it seems, and the prices are rather democratic. For instance, an average one-person dinner will cost you from 6 to 14 euro depending on the city. And here is a very important note: in the course of your German trip be sure to forget about diets and calorie count, as the German cuisine is not only among the tastiest but also one of the most nutritious in Europe. Enjoy your meal!