Well, I admit, there are way more than ten German foods I miss here, but a lot of them are easy to make myself, like:
- Kaiserschmarrn: literally “emperor’s mess“, a thick sweet pancake ripped to pieces and caramelized – it is actually Austrian, but we don’t want to be Korinthenkacker (someone who is nitpicking. Literally: raisin pooper. Oh, the beauty of the German language!)
- Semmelknödel: bread dumplings made with stale rolls. My husband loves them too – I have to share the recipe next time I make them!
- Blaukraut: pickled red cabbage, irreplaceable side for many German dishes like roast goose and duck, or beef rouladen
But there are some foods I can either not easily make myself or simply can’t buy here, so let’s have a look at what this poor German girl has to live without!
Zungenwurst is called blood tongue in English, and it really is what the name suggests: pieces of tongue in blood, conveniently pressed into a large casing and then cut into thin slices to put on a nice thick slice of buttered sourdough rye bread. Ooooh, the delight! The best Zungenwurst can be bought in my hometown in Lauscha at Metzgerei Moppel, and I would request it every time we came to visit my grandma.
Fried pickled herring is a god send delicacy. The sour and savory fishy taste is incomparable. Herring in general is something I just love and Brathering is the best. By the way: it is pronounced brat hering, not with an English th.
3. Leberkäse im Brötchen
Leberkäse translates to “liver cheese” yet it neither is cheese nor does it contain liver. It is finely ground pork with lard/bacon and spices, baked in a loaf pan until it has a brown crust. It is a popular fast food to eat on the go: one thick slice of Leberkäse in a Brötchen (bread roll), preferably with mustard, and sometimes topped with sauteed onions. The Brötchen has to be dry and close to stale for the authentic mouth feel, a soft and fresh bread roll would be for snobs. It is also popular to get a whole loaf of Leberkäse for parties – there are different kinds like pizza Leberkäse with pieces of salami and cheese in it. Because you know, it is already so unhealthy that even more unhealthiness can’t hurt!
Germany’s most popular fast food is what created jobs for approximately 40% of all Turkish immigrants in Germany, although it isn’t even truly Turkish, as it was invented in Germany, but by a Turkish street vendor. Complicated? We consider it Turkish fast food and we freaking LOVE it! Döner is thin slices of ground meat that was packed tight and put on a stick where it was roasted until crispy. The outer crispy layer is shaved off freshly for every Döner – and then stuffed into a pita bread or a wrap together with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, red and white cabbage, and drizzled with garlic yogurt sauce. You can also add “scharf“, which is a grammatically wrong way to ask for red pepper flakes. Scharf means spicy and due to the Turkish vendors asking in broken German “Do you want with spicy?” we now all call it “with spicy”.
There isn’t even an English word for Quark and when I googled it on my laptop I was shown pictures of some weird looking movie monster named Quark (it looked fairly familiar and apparently it is from Star Trek). The real, true, delicious German Quark however is a dairy product, made from sour milk that is warmed until it curdles slightly, then it is strained. Apparently farmer’s cheese is closest in texture and taste. Quark can be prepared sweet or savory and is essential for German cheesecake. A popular German dish is Pellkartoffeln mit Quark – potatoes boiled in their jackets, then peeled, and enjoyed with Quark mixed with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Fat reduced Quark, called Magerquark, is an important staple in the kitchen of fitness freaks and weightlifters as it is very high in protein and very versatile.
Pure Quark has a slighty sour taste that not many people enjoy too much, but prepared it is simply delicious. Quark is available in the US in some stores, but it is not the real deal – my fellow German expats told me it is full of sugar and artificial flavors. I might try to make my own Quark some time to make a real German poppy seed cheesecake!
Now this is the truly German most popular German fast food. Even songs have been written about the Currywurst! Currywurst is a fine bratwurst, grilled, cut into slices, then drowned in a special curry tomato sauce and topped with generous amounts of curry. The sauce is the secret and every vendor has their own recipe. Simply using ketchup with curry is considered an abomination! The best Currywurst (to me) is served in Jena, a beautiful town that I lived in for a few years. This Currywurst along with thick cut fries and specialty spiced mayonnaise was the best foundation for a long beer-filled evening in our favorite club where we danced to 60s and 70s rock until the early morning. Oh, sweet nostalgia!
Yes, there are Brezeln (pretzels) in the US, but nothing compares to a German soft pretzel, preferably still warm! My best friend who lived in the US for a few years as a child said that the Amish make the best Brezeln, but Arizona isn’t quite known for its Amish communities, so I’m missing this warm soft dough knot with its crispy crust. The only thing that’s better than a Brezel is a Butterbrezel – a Brezel cut and smeared with copious amounts of butter! By the way: whether you eat the salt on it or not is up to personal preference. I always scratch it off!
Let’s stay with the baked goods and talk about Pumpernickel. What is considered Pumpernickel in the US is just dark dyed soft bread – sorry! Real Pumpernickel is admittedly an acquired taste: no crust, almost black, very crumbly, very dense and heavy, sweet and savory with a certain sourness, with cracked rye and rather strong in taste. Traditionally Pumpernickel is baked for at least 16-24 hrs in a steam filled oven on low heat. It is eaten with savory toppings (Leberwurst, liverwurst, is the most delicious in my opinion) but some weirdos like me actually like it with sweet toppings too – like butter and Nudossi (East German Nutella), best combination!
Yes, this ugly thing floats through my longing dreams – celery root. I have found it in the US – but the roots are tiny, woody, and ridiculously expensive! In Germany you can buy large Knollensellerie for less than a buck and it is incredibly versatile: vegetarians like to bread and fry it as a sort of Schnitzel, people who eat low carb use it cooked and mashed in place of mashed potatoes, and it is necessary for a real vegetable broth! If I find decent sized Knollensellerie in the US (size of a baby’s head, anything smaller is to pity!) I sure as hell will buy the whole stock!
Malzbier translates to malt beer, yet it is not alcoholic (<0.5% alcohol, which is considered as not alcoholic in Germany) – it is a fermented soda, sweet but with a strong tart malt flavor, dark brown with a light foam crown. It is sometimes called Kinderbier, children’s beer, as it comes in brown bottles like beer and will foam almost like real beer. Yes, we raise our kids to not have any reservations against alcoholic beverages, haha! I enjoyed it as a refreshing beverage in school and it did look as if I was drinking beer from a bottle right in the school yard. To be honest, I did find the confused and upset looks from fellow students and teachers amusing! I remember as a kid I always felt very grown up when I drank Malzbier. A nice cold Malzbier is truly a delight on a hot summer day!
And don’t worry: I did not turn out to be an alcoholic – the first time I was drunk I was already 21 (legal drinking age for beer and wine in Germany is 16, for hard alcohol it is 18), so the Kinderbier of my childhood days did not do me any harm, haha!
These are 10 of many German goodies I miss in the US – and I already know, the next time I will visit Germany I will eat them all, drink them all, and gain 5 lbs without any shame or regret!