Need I say more?
Well, only that Berlin is really international, don’t expect only German food, go looking for high quality food from all over the world.
Okay enough talk, let’s dive in!
We begin with a German staple – wurst or sausage. This german favourite has so many forms representing different locales and palates. But at the end of the day it is a wonderful casing of meat prepared for you to munch on. What separates different wursts is the way they are served – boiled, grilled, fried, broiled, dried/preserved…
While sausages are usually eaten as they are, sometimes a bit of sauce adds a different dimension to the taste. And that’s where currywurst comes in.
It was India that introduced curry to the British and the British soldiers who in turn introduced curry to the Germans. At the end of World War II as soldiers from the United Kingdom made theit way into Berlin, some of them decided to share their rations with the locals. Among those was curry powder, by then an essential national dish in the UK. Local Berliners added it to a German staple, sausage with tomato ketchup and fell in love with the flavour, the slightly herby and spicy kick from the curry powder slightly balancing the sour tomato sauce.
Of all the different street food vendors selling currywurst, Currywurst 36 is perhaps one of the best – the very dish is in the name. The queue at Currywurst 36 never goes down, and for good reason, its a cheap and tasty snack to have in between meals.
A set of two wursts and fries (pommes frittes) will set you back barely 5 euros but will fill your stomach quite a bit. What makes a good currywurst, at the end of the day its not so much the raw materials as it is the preparation (in my view). A good currywurst has crispy, but not oily, fries and a sausage that is juicy and not dry. The ketchup and curry powder complement a well prepared wurst.
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I was in Germany, no matter how international my palate there was no way I could go without a great piece of schnitzel. Schnitzel is a cutlet of pounded meat that is usually breaded or fried, served with a side of vegetables or fries. It was first created in Austria (the Wiener Schnitzel) and has since evolved to become an important part of German cuisine. Schnitzel is a highly versatile dish that is able to make it onto street food plates as well as the tables of fancy restaurants, the difference lying mostly in presentation only – street food schnitzel is usually fuss free while restaurant schnitzel is usually very fancy in preparation.
Scheers Schnitzel is noted in Berlin for being home to high quality, fast and affordable schnitzel. Located underneath a highway near the centre of town, the fast food joint is fuss free and easy to miss, but miss it and you will regret. A regular schnitzel will set you back 6.90 euros while the Schnitzelbrötchen (schnitzel burger) that I ordered cost 3 euros.
I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two though, the schnitzels were of the same size, the meat was equally tender, juicy and sweet but there were more things in the 3 euro dish than the 6.90 euro one.
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Ah Germany, the inspirational home of the Hamburger, bread with meat and some vegetables, doesn’t sound like much but sure tastes good. Burgers are ubiquitous in most cities around the world today, so if you are going to have one it better be one that is worth queuing up and gaining the calories for. And the place to get it? Burgermeister.
Burgermeister was attractive because of its whacky back story. It was former a male bathroom underneath railway tracks and later one was converted into a kitchen for some of the best damn burgers in town. It was also popular for having good prices and a never-ending queue. What really sold me on the place, was that this was no tourist trap, local Berliners patronised it.
The queue at Burgermeister never goes down (I really like Berlin’s food scene, the vibrancy reminds me of home) and for good reason, the prices were good and the experience was just fun.
But good prices and an interesting interest do not keep people coming back if the food is no good, Burgermeisters burger was a long way from being no good – it was really tasty. I ordered the special, the Meisterburger which at 4.90 euros was really worth the bargain basement price, the steak was cooked just nicely so that the savoury juices oozed out from the meat while retaining the sweetness of the meat. The Meisterburger steak was served on a bed of lettuce, tomatos, carmelised onions, bacon, barbecued sauce and mustard. It was quite a treat.
But it was not just the burger, the fries were quite something, at 2.40 euros a serving the fries tasted rather spectacular,. crispy on the outside with a nice crunch and bite when munching into it, soft and squishy on the inside it was what you’d want in a fry. I’m not sure what the ‘perfect fries‘ would taste like, but it sure was good.
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Ruya Gemuse Kebab
The Turkish people who arrived in Berlin created a dish that has since graced the street food of all Germany, and has become the de facto national dish across the country – doner kebab. A Doner Kebab is a Turkish style burger with meats cooked on a vertical rotisserie sliced and stuffed with a generous amount of condiments into pita bread.
Most people will say that a trip to Berlin is not complete without a kebab, but not just any old kebab, only the ones from Mustafa will do.
Mustafa Gemuse Kebab while popular has a long wait (and I hear rude service), it is not uncommon to end up having to wait almost an hour or two for your street food dish to arrive – fast food it isn’t. There is another one in Berlin, that the locals go to instead, where the kebabs are as good as, if not better, than Musafa’s, the service is exceptional and wait time is short (10 to 20 minutes at peak). I should also add that it comes with tea and water for you to drink as you like. That is Ruya Gemuse Kebab.
I did not have hours to wait at Mustafa’s (Berlin was a trip still) but I did have a stomach to feed, which necessitated a trip to Ruya’s for kebab. A normal gemuse kebab cost 3.90 euros but throw in great, friendly service and that was already a winner in my book.
The kebab was rather phenomenal, beautifully cooked meat with garlic, tomato, onions and garlic served in a tasty white sauce. The burger was the size of my face (massive) and was both scrumptious and filling. Why would I spend any extra time queuing up at Mustafs’s when I’ve got this?
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There is a Vietnamese Pho place on almost every street in Berlin, because Vietnamese people moved to Berlin and Germany during the height of the cold war. The Vietnamese are not a monolithic community though and have been divided into two broad groups, a divide that is only beginning to heal. But we’ll get into that in a later article.
The most popular Vietnamese food item on the streets of Berlin is Pho. Pho, pronounced ‘fur’ is think rice noodles served a clear herbal broth and meats. Because of the tropical climate that Vietnam is located in the dish is refreshing rather than surfeiting.
Despite the flood of pho restaurant all over town one of the most authentic is Pho Noodlebar. The competition all over the city helps to raise standards and lower prices across the board. Popular with the working crowd descending upon it from the office districts near by the restaurant can be said to be a local (maybe hipster) joint but not a touristy one.
The stall is dressed out North Vietnamese architecture and decoration, with a large five point star at the centre, a nod to the heritage of the people behind the restaurant perhaps. (p.s: you know its authentic when there is small Buddhist shrine at the entrance and it has been worshiped at).
Its pho dishes set you back between 7 to 10 euros which by the standards of European cities is a very good price for high quality Asian food.
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Be good at what you do, stick at it long enough and eventually you will become an institution. Thats the story of the century old institution Henne.
It’s name saysaway exactly what it sells and all that it sells – chicken and beer. Deep-fried chicken to be precise. Flying in from Stockholm, where fried chicken is not a thing, I was more tempted by ubiquitous KFCs all around. But as a good doctor once said, don’t waste your calories on yucky food, and so by a stroke of luck, I stumbled on this place.
Henne’s deep fried chickens are prepared to order so dish comes to you pipping hot. The skin is fried to perfection, crispy but still retaining the juice and fragrance of the fats out a thick, filling battered layer, juices ooze out from the meat as you tear it up. A piece of bread served at the side you to up all the tasty goodness.
The chicken is best washed down with a pint of schulteiss, a local Berlin brew. All this (chicken and beer) cost 13.90 euros, for comparison KFC in Berlin costs around 8.50 euros without a beer.
I think it was a steal.
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