When I moved to Germany, I had very little knowledge of what the German culinary was all about. Having changed countries in order to pursue a Masters´ degree, the food was actually the least of my worries. Besides, eating is my favorite sport and there´s not much I say no to…
I was pleasantly surprised with what I found though. The Germans enjoy a full plate and love their meat, very much like us, Brazilians. So I can say I felt quite at home in a German kitchen! Even though many years have passed since I moved here, and I eat very little meat nowadays, I can always enjoy a good old grilled Wurst!
Another thing I really appreciate are the sweets. I know, I know….this is not France. In Germany, you won´t find those perfectly baked colorful delicate desserts that the French are proud to showcase in their window displays – which, by the way, will make you need them even if you don´t have a sweet tooth. The German desserts are, on the other hand, very “in-your-face” kind of sweets. They are simple, some don´t even look that promising, but they deliver what, in the end, is all that counts: taste, without a kilogram of sugar in every bite.
So, today I share with you my ten favorite foods to try in Germany, among main dishes and desserts. I wouldn´t miss any of them if I were you!
I bet you have heard of this one. Funny thing, it wasn´t my favorite dish before I arrived in Germany. I always found it too big, too dry, too…blah. Then one day somebody had me try it again and I was like “Ohhh, where have you been all my life??”….well, in Germany. Once I tried the real deal, I was not only sold on it, but I also try to “sell” it to all of my friends that come visit now as well.
The schnitzel is a very thin slice of breaded pork meat, which is deep fried in a way that it acquires a super puffy crust. Normally, there´s no sauce to it (some regional versions present it with sauce though). This always bugged me, because I like wet food. Whatever you serve me, if it´s swimming on the plate, I like it. But I learned how to appreciate the traditional schnitzel as it is. It actually goes really well with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top of it. In Austria, there were times when I was served the schnitzel with a fruit jam, and though the combination of sweet and savory might not be your cup of tea, I strongly advise you to just give it a try!
I talked about the Kaiserschmarrn before here. To be honest, this is a very Austrian dish, taking its name after the Austrian emperor (=Kaiser) Franz Joseph I, who absolutely loved this dessert (I can see us being friends back then). I included it on the list because you can easily find it in Germany, specially in the south (Bavaria), and I don´t think you should miss it in case you find yourself wandering around this part of the map.
The Kaiserschmarrn is a kind of fluffy shredded pancake made with rum-soaked raisins, usually topped with apple sauce or fruit jams, finished with powdered sugar. It´s not super sweet, and the fun part is that you can even try to make it at home putting your own twist to it. For example, a few months ago, my mother-in-law made Kaiserschmarrn at home topping it with a homemade orange sauce. Yum, I´m starting to get ideas…
BRATWURST / CURRYWURST / KÄSEWURST (KÄSEKRAINER)
Coming to Germany and not eating sausage is like going to Italy and not eating pasta! Or going to the US and not eating a burger, or….ok, you get it. But yes, sausage is definitely a thing here. The locals take it so seriously that there´s an estimated 1,500 varieties of this delicacy.
The Bratwurst is one of the most common, being made with veal, pork or beef. Still, it´s not because it is sold in almost every corner by grillwalkers that it is pedestrian: the Bratwurst is a juicy sausage, which can be roasted or pan-fried, and tastes super yummy! It is normally served in a bread with ketchup or mustard (or both!).
The Currywurst and the Käsewurst are also typical street snacks I love! The former is basically a fried pork sausage served with a curry ketchup topped with curry powder. So simple, but so flavorful! The latter is like a Bratwurst….but upgraded! It is made with pieces of cheese inside, which will ooze out once you take the first bite…Irresistible! Just…beware. Like everything yummy in this life, it comes with a price: it isn´t uncommon that the cheese squirts out with a bite, and ends up in your eye or on your clothes!
Bratkartoffeln is probably the easiest German dish, basically a salvation for those that aren´t that friendly with the wizardry of cooking. It consists of pan-fried sliced potatoes, to which you can add any complementary ingredient like onions, bacon, paprika and so on. It´s one of my husband´s favorite dishes! His own touch? He normally adds beaten eggs to it!
You can see Bratkartoffeln being served as a dish of its own – as my mother-in-law has done many times-, or as a side dish.
I don´t know which drug they put inside that got me hooked on it. Oh wait, I do know: curd cheese.
When I first saw Quarkbällchen in a bakery on my way to the university, I made a simple logic calculation: Quark is cheese….bällchen are small balls….small cheeseballs….SOLD. I didn´t know what to expect from it – sweet or savory? -, but I knew nothing that has cheese inside can be bad. Yeah, so I have been eating Quarkbällchen nonstop since 2015…
Though they are basically, indeed, donut-like cheese balls, what makes it interesting is the cheese used in its recipe – the quark. As stated before, the quark is a type of curd cheese, being super creamy, silky and lightweight. When deep fried and then topped with powdered sugar, it becomes the famous Quarkbällchen, an irresistible German treat that melts in your mouth!
I first heard about Rouladen in my favorite German soap opera, one I started to watch in order to improve my ears for the language. In the story, there´s an old lady who basically bribes everybody with her famous rouladen – a typical German meat dish.
I was then very excited when I was visiting my mother-in-law, and she had announced she had made Rinderrouladen for dinner (beef rouladen). I could finally taste it! It´s kind of a meat roll, stuffed with onions, mustard, pickles and bacon, usually served with a tasty thick red wine gravy. Now I totally understand why the old lady in the soap opera gets away with everything….
SCHWEINSHAXE MIT SAUERKRAUT
Even though this is one of my favorite German dishes, I rarely eat it for one reason: It´s huge! The Schweinshaxe is basically a slow roasted pork knuckle. It´s succulent, tender and obligatory!
It is normally served with Sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage which complements the dish beautifully by adding a sour flavor to the sweet roasted meat. Yabba dabba doo!
Spätzle is basically a fancy name for egg noodles. Though you may call it pasta, if there´s a German next to you, he will most certainly correct you: “it´s not pasta, it´s spätzle”. Indeed, the spätzle doesn´t look like your traditional pasta: it is very irregularly shaped and has a dumpling-like consistency. It is indeed, very unique!
Though there are a few variations of this dish, I would say the cheese Spätzle is the tastiest! It is also my husband´s favorite.
I talked about this delicacy before here. The Stollen completely stole my heart (dad joke much?). It is a dessert I like to describe as a moist panettone. If you are not familiar with the Italian panettone, think of the Stollen then as a moist sweet bread filled with nuts and dried fruits, topped with powdered sugar. It´s traditionally sold during the Christmas´ season.
Though you will find many types of Stollen in Germany, I strongly advise you to try the Dresdner Christstollen, as it is the most delicious, in my opinion. But if my opinion doesn´t count as much to you (no hard feelings), you can at least trust tradition, since the custom of baking this dessert in Dresden is very old, dating back to the 15th century.
Now here´s a classic! If you had to choose among many German desserts to try just one, this is the one I would recommend: the one and only apple cake. Germans take their apple cake/pie very seriously: they are usually tall, filled with big, abundant and juicy pieces of soft apple inside, finalized with a crunchy, crumbly crust on top. Music to my ears.
It is normally served with fresh whipped cream, which definitely brightens up the dessert´s flavour.