Whenever I told people that I love German food, nine times out of ten, I would get the question “So you like sausages?” Yes, I love sausages and sauerkraut, but I also love many other German food. And then they would ask me again “What’s other German food?” I get these responses so often, even from the Dutch, whose country actually shares a border with Germany. German food got the reputation of being boring, un-trendy and not worth trying. Even Wikipedia’s pages for both ‘Deutscheküche‘ and ‘German cuisine‘ show boring looking food.
In reality, there are a variety of German dishes, especially if you include all the regional food (and I haven’t been to all states of Germany). I found German dishes to be hearty, moreish, non-pretentious, and soul-warming, and even more so in the winter. It’s true, most of the dishes feature meat, accompanied with some form of potatoes, but hey, most Asian food also comes with rice.
We spent last Christmas in Berlin, and in the mean time, trying to taste as many of my favourites as possible:
1. Roasted goose, with knöedel, grünkohl and gravy.
Pictured as the main image above. This is the classic Christmas dinner in Berlin, but you could also get it anytime in winter. For me, it’s the ultimate German food experience; the perfectly roasted goose (sometimes duck) with crispy skin, accompanied with knöedels, which are potato dumplings with bread crumbs and/or bacon bits filling. Grünkohl (green cabbage) is curly kale, cooked in pork broth, and gravy from the goose’s fat itself. Instead of grünkohl, sometimes it comes with rotkohl (red cabbage). It’s made of purple cabbages, and tasted sweeter than the green variety.
Kid friendliness: I can never finish a whole portion myself, so I share it with the Kid. She loves the goose meat, with its crispy skin. She loves the dumplings (she ate more dumplings than me) and the gravy. She tried the kale, but even though the broth took away the bitterness of it, she wasn’t keen on it.
Schweinehaxen is pit roasted pork knuckle, even if one might be forgiven to think it’s the whole thigh looking at the size. A good haxen comes with crispy crackling, sauerkraut, and usually pan fried potatoes (this one comes with plain boiled potatoes). There is something primeval about this dish that endears me so much. Whenever I dream about German food, it’s the haxen that comes to mind.
Kid friendliness: The size and appearance of this dish can intimidate full-grown adults, let alone children. The Kid asked if she could have some of the cracklings, but she never wanted to have anything else to do with my plate.
The most famous form of schnitzel is the Wiener schnitzel, which is Austrian in origin, but you easily find schnitzel in any restaurant offering German dishes allover Germany. It’s very common for a restaurant in Germany to put schnitzel under its children menu. It is basically a fried breaded thin fillet of pork. It can come with all kinds of side dishes, including pan fried potatoes, cold potato salad, or plain spätzle (German pasta). The best we’ve eaten so far was from Schnitzelei in Berlin, where the meat was beaten into a very thin sliver (which in turn spreads it in horizontal size) and covered in really tasty batter. Image from the Schnitzelei.
Kid friendliness: Very high.
Another dish that is more known to be Hungarian, but very common to find in Germany, Czech Republic and probably some other Central European countries. Goulash is a stew of beef, or other meat, sometimes mixed with potatoes, mushrooms, or carrots. In autumn and winter, it is very common to find game goulash in the menu in Germany. Everybody seems to have different family recipes for goulash, but it’s always a nice dish to eat to warm yourself up. It can be eaten with potatoes, rice, or spätzle.
Kid friendliness: Depending on the type of meat used, it can be quite child friendly. The Kid didn’t like it when it came out as big chunky pieces of game meat, but she liked the home-made version of beef goulash with rice.
5. Käsespätzle (Cheese spätzle)
This one is Hubby and the Kid’s favourite. Spätzle is a the closest thing the Germans have to pasta. It comes in different shapes, but it’s usually small and lumpy-shaped (it doesn’t taste lumpy, though). Käsespätzle is spätzle made with onion and cheese (and sometimes bacon bits). It’s a very simple food, but it can be very comforting. Think of it as the German’s mac and cheese.
Kid friendliness: Very high.
Flammkuchen comes from the Alsace region, which borders France, and it used to be French, and the French influence is distinctive enough in their food. Flammkuchen is a thin crepe, topped with either cream cheese or crème fraîche, onions, and bacon bits (Germany is bacon bits heaven). Unlike the floppy Dutch savoury pancake, flammkuchen is crispier and is closer to a very thin and light pizza than pancake.
Kid friendliness: The Kid removed all the onions before eating it, but overall, I think she likes it.
7. And of course, the sausages
I love all the humble warm sausages I could get in pretty much anywhere in Germany. From the grilled bratwurst, to the boiled bockwurst, the oddly pleasant combination of skinless sausage, ketchup and curry of currywurst, with the exception of Bavarian white sausages and its sweet mustard. Eaten with potatoes, bread, on its own fresh from the barbeque, or even the cold Frankfurters from the fridge in the middle of the night, they’re simple joy.
Kid friendliness: What kid doesn’t like sausages?
If you’re ever in Germany, please don’t stop with sausages and think that it’s all there is to German food. Don’t be shy to step into some traditional Brauhaus, a beer garden, or a local deutscheküche restaurant, and have some authentic German dish. Bring the kids, they’re family friendly too.