It’s funny. Until you leave your home country, you don’t really realize all the things that are so particular about your country. Tiffany of No Ordinary Homestead picked food as this month’s topic for the Blogger Stammtisch aka the perfect opportunity for me to tell you about some of the foods that to me are so inherently German – even if it took me moving halfway across the world to realize that they are German. So, what would be considered popular food in Germany? Read on :)

German Breakfast

One of the first things I noticed when I moved away from Germany is that breakfast is vastly different in every country. For some reason this came as a surprise to me as I figured everybody would have bread, cheese, and cold cuts on their breakfast table. I don’t think there is any German that lives abroad who doesn’t miss the vast variety of breads and Brötchen (literally “little breads”; dinner rolls) we have in Germany. When Marco and I go home to visit friends and family in Germany, we always go to a supermarket sometime in the beginning of a trip and buy our favorite things: Gouda and Brie (delicious cheeses), ham, Kassler (smoked ham), Brunch (sort of like Philadelphia, but better), smoked salmon and fake caviar (for Marco, not me), ACE juice (literally “vitamin A, C, and E juice; it’s a mix of orange and carrot juice), and of course coffee and milk. We also usually pick up some Brötchen that we can warm up in the oven the next morning in case none of us wants to get out and go get fresh ones from the bakery.

Popular Food in Germany: breakfast

Popular Food in Germany: breakfast

German Bakery

via Wikimedia Commons

German Brötchen

via Wikimedia Commons

Fast Food in Germany

Something else you notice as different very quickly when you leave your home country are the fast food options – all those goodies you turn to when you don’t feel like cooking, when nothing edible is in the house, or you just feel like it. My first expat experience was in Safaga, a small city at the Red Sea in Egypt. I started missing all my staples very quickly. I still do, because while they have more fast food than anybody could ever want where I live now (Texas), they don’t quite have the same things we eat in Germany when we’re on the go. What would I give sometimes for a simple Currywurst (grilled sausage with ketchup-curry-sauce)! Or, when you’ve had a few drinks and are craving something salty? The go-to food in  Germany would have to be a Döner or a Gyros. I know that neither is actually German, but believe me, these meat-filled bread goodies from Turkey and Greece, respectively, are very ingrained in German food culture. More traditional German fast food would probably be a Frikadelle (grilled meat ball), a Bremer (Brötchen with fried fish paddies and sauce), or a belegtes Brötchen (a Brötchen with cold cuts, cheese, veggies, etc.) from a bakery. Typical fair food, as I described in my post about German Christmas Market Food, would be for example Backfisch (fried fish) and Reibekuchen (grated and fried potatoes).

Currywurst

via Wikimedia Commons

Doener meat

via Wikimedia Commons

Döner kebab

via Wikimedia Commons

Frikadellen

via Wikimedia Commons

 

Popular Food in Germany: Backfisch

Popular Food in Germany: Reibekuchen

Potatoes = Kartoffeln

Once I moved in with Marco, he started making fun of me for eating so many potatoes… in my defense, it’s not actually that much (maybe 2-3 times a week?). But it probably is more than his Italian palate was used to. And it probably is more than some other cultures eat as well. While in Germany you’ll find plenty of rice and pasta dishes, we do have potato dishes in all shapes and forms: french fries, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes, Bratkartoffeln (potatoes fried in a little oil in the pan), Kartoffelgratin (potato slices baked in oil and cream), Kroketten (mashed potatoes that are then fried) and I’m sure many more :) Do I sound horribly biased when I say that German potatoes tend to taste much better than the ones I usually find here in an American supermarket? They do though! They are usually of the yellow variety and have a much more buttery taste and less floury texture.

Potato

via Wikimedia Commons

boiled potatoes

via Wikimedia Commons

Bratkartoffeln

via Wikimedia Commons

German Food and Regional Specialties

There are some foods you can find all across Germany, like for example the potato dishes above or the famous Schnitzel (with or without sauce). While many foods are similar across Germany, every region has its own specialties and ways of serving food. When I started college close to Stuttgart, a region called Swabia, certain things became much more common on my plates than they had ever been. They weren’t necessarily completely new, but became much more prominent. Instead of having the regular Brötchen for breakfast, I would eat Laugen (also a Brötchen, but more similar to a Pretzel in taste). Instead of getting a Brötchen with cheese and cold cuts at the bakery for a quick lunch, I would swing by the butcher and pick up a Brötchen with Fleischkäse (literally it means “meat cheese”; it’s kind of like hot dog meat and, to Americans, looks like spam). They also had a funky dish with Spätzle (German pasta), lentils, and a Wiener or two (hot dog – but better ;) ). These are just a few examples as every region had their own specialties.

Schnitzel

via Wikimedia Commons

Popular Food in Germany: Schnitzel

Lauge

via Wikimedia Commons

Fleischkaese

via Wikimedia Commons

Linsen und Spaetzle

via Wikimedia Commons

Seasonal Produce, Dishes, and Goodies

I think eating in Germany is far more seasonal than it is in the US. When I go grocery shopping here, I can’t even really tell what is in season and what isn’t because everything is pretty much available year-round. A lot of times I appreciate it, but other times I miss the seasonal produce in Germany. It means you are eating more local produce, change your dishes depending on the time of the year, and it’s actually kind of fun to be more aware of it. For example, you will know when asparagus (Spargel) is in season in Germany since everybody goes crazy for it – especially the white one that barely even exists in the US. You’ll see it in supermarkets, on the side of the road, in restaurants, everywhere. When there are neue Kartoffeln (new potatoes) potato dishes take on a whole new meaning.

Sweets also go very much dependant on the season. They kind of are here in the US as well, but I think in Germany there are more festivities that bring with them specific goodies. We both have of course chocolate Easter bunnies and chocolate Santas, but in Germany you’ll also find for example Berliner during Karneval (a pastry filled with jam) and Weckmänner (sweet bread in the form of a little guy) during November for Sankt Martin. There are also a lot of cookies that are only available before and during Christmas (as I described before: German Christmas Cookies 1 and German Christmas Cookies 2).

Spargel

via Wikimedia

Spargel

via Wikimedia Commons

Berliner

via Wikimedia Commons

Weckmaenner

via Wikimedia Commons

Foreign restaurants

Something else that is different from country to country are the foreign restaurants. Not only are the kind of foreign restaurants you find very different, but even the foods you find in them. For example, most Italian restaurants in Germany offer fairly authentic Italian food (with the odd pizza with tuna and/or corn that I was surprised to find out is not actually Italian). Many Italian restaurants in the US serve food that is American-Italian and would never be found in Italy. Examples? Ricotta cheese in lasagna and pasta with Alfredo sauce don’t exist outside of the US. So, sometimes I miss an authentic pizza or a Chinese spring roll (as prepared by Chinese restaurants in Germany – not the actual Chinese food).

Pizza

via Wikimedia Commons

Fruehlingsrolle

via Wikimedia Commons

Next month’s topic of the Blogger Stammtisch will be drinks. Is there any topic that would be better suited to follow up food? As usual, all posts will be up by the 15th of the month. But until then, enjoy some of my fellow blogger’s musings about food:

 

50 Comments

  • You’re killing me – because I miss these foods so much! Over skype, my boyfriend taunts me with all of the Aufstricht and Aufschnit he has on real brötchen! And who could forget about Döner and Currywurst! Nope – here I am, stuck in Philadelphia, feasting on Cheesesteaks and soft pretzels.

    • Sabrina says:

      I hear you – just writing this made me kind of pity myself for the lack of a good Broetchen. Luckily I recenty found a place that sells “French Dinner Rolls” which at least come close :) Have not found a good Doener anywhere here though! It’s usually the very fisrt thing I eat in Germany :) I can at least approximate Currywurst by mixing Ketchup with Curry. When is your next trip to Germany planned for?

  • Andrew says:

    What a comprehensive list Sabrina. It is kind of interesting how the food changes even around the country. I am completely used to Laugen being as popular as “normal” Brotchen here in Baden too.

    The potato thing is funny. There is a restaurant here called Kartoffelhaus. Everything is from potatoes. Everything you listed is available, with one of several sauces. Even potato schnapps.

    • Sabrina says:

      Kartoffelhaus? I need to go :) Also… The list could have been even longer. Once I started thinking about all of the food, I had to actually stop myself from writing even more, because I started getting so hungry and a tiny bit homesick.

    • Dani says:

      We have a Kartoffelhaus in my hometown too – love that place! So many yummy potato dishes :D

      • Sabrina says:

        I only remember a Pfannkuchenhaus close to where I grew up with the best ever pancake with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. You guys make me wanna find a Kartoffelhaus!

  • Lisa says:

    I love the German brotchen, and kase spatzle, as well as the Nurenburg sausages. Oh, and those awesome turkish doners.

    • Sabrina says:

      Kaesespaetzle and Nuernberger sausages – how could I forget to mention them? So delicious! I used to prefer the regular lamb doener, but on recent visits I found a place that makes an amazing chicken doener.

  • Pit says:

    Hi Sabrina,

    Do you really want to make me homesick??!! ;) Broetchen is what I probably miss most here, even if I can get some that are not too bad at Whole Foods. Well, and the cold cuts, of course, is what I’m missing. As to Currywurst: I’ve done a fairly good imitation [at least I think so] of that here myself. And Frikadellen, too. That’s really not a problem. I can get Fleischkaese at the Friesenhaus in New Braunfels. Lentils – or lentil soup, rather – is something I do myself sometimes, as is pea soup. I’d love to have fresh white asparagus sometimes, and then do it like we used to have in “em Füürjebirch” [I think you know the region,don't you?], with smoked and cooked ham plus an omelette. As to potatoes: the red ones are fairly decent, but I usually try to by the yellow ones. They’re not quite the same as ours in Germany, but come close to that taste.

    Well, my mouth is watering and my heart is bleeding. ;)

    Take care up there in the panhandle,

    Pit

    • Sabrina says:

      Pit, I made myself homesick writing this :) I so want to start planning my next trip now. I agree on being able to make many things here. I started cooking a lot when I moved here and with my mom’s recipes via email was able to recreate some pretty good Frikadellen, Wirsingeintopf, etc. The one thing I don’t dare to try is a Doener. Do you like those? Das Vorgebirge? :) Das musste ich jetzt aber erst mal bei Google nachgucken :)

      • Pit says:

        Hi Sabrina,

        I’ve never had Doener, but isn’t Gyros just the Greek version of it? That’s something I really like.

        And yes, you got it right, it’s “Das Vorgebirge”. Glad you found it on Google. Why did I think that you knew the area? Didn’t you live in Cologne or close by?

        Have a great weekend,

        Pit

        • Sabrina says:

          Doener and Gyros are similar, but not quite the same. I think Gyros is pork and Doener either lamb or chicken. Also, I think the way the meat is processed before being put on the heating thing is different. I like both though :) Yes, I’m from close to Cologne, but the other side :) Gummersbach. I did know what the Vorgebirge, but had to make sure that that’s what it stood for. My parents didn’t really teach me all the dialect :) Hope you had a great weekend!

  • Francy R says:

    It’s not fair! It’s lunchtime and I’m going to skip the lunch as I’m too busy and I’ve just browsed this great post with these stunning pèictures of Geramn food, which I love! In particular I’m keen of black bred! Amazing!

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks, Francy :) I have to admit, I was making myself mad hungry as well and all I had for lunch was a bowl of turkey chili – not quite the German food I was craving. I really like the black bread too and sometimes buy it here at Wordmarket.

  • Wendi says:

    Love, love, love this post. You mentioned every single food that even I (after only a year and a half here) would miss if I had to move back to the states right now…especially the German breakfast. When my daughter (she who used to eat sweet cereal for breakfast in the States every morning) came back last summer from a visit to Florida, the first thing she wanted was Brötchen and Leberwurst. It has to be that good if an 11 year old American prefers it to Fruit Loops.

    So now I’m hungry again, even after I just had lunch!

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks, Wendi! Your daughter is absolutely German if she craves a Broetchen with Leberwurst instead of fruit loops :) I usually try to eat a fairly light breakfast during the week with milk or yogurt, fruit, granola or oats, and of course coffee. The weekends are when we live the “German breakfast dream” :) Sometimes we add a Texan waffle in the mix as well.

  • R. Sherman says:

    Around the corner from my son’s high school in St. Louis, there is an Imbiss run by a family of Bosnian immigrants who spent many years in Germany before coming to the states. They serve authentic Doener and Gyros and have a nice selection of German comfort foods for sale at their small grocery. My wife loves it.

    As for me, I miss the Bratwurst of Regensburg, as well has the Zigeunerschnitzl.

    Cheers.

    • Sabrina says:

      Oh, my mom used to make an excellent Zigeunerschnitzel! When I order Schnitzel in restaurants I usually go with Jaegerschnitzel. That sauce is hard to beat. A German imbiss with Doener, Gyros, and other German goodies? I want to come visit!!

    • Pit says:

      Hi Randall,

      I sure need to check that Imbiss out. It’s just around the corner from here, isn’t it??!! ;)

      Have a great weekend,

      Pit

      • Sabrina says:

        Does 14 hours seem excessive for from German fast food? Maybe! But if I’m ever any closer, I’ll consider it as well ;)

  • Potatoes are the one thing my husband and his family always had trouble finding a comparison for. I guess I’m going to go through that when we move back one day. :)
    I’ve definitely come to love a lot a things about German food, but I’m also making sure I learn how to make as many things as I can myself, so wherever we end up, I can still make them myself! :)

    • Sabrina says:

      I did the same thing :) When I left home, I kept emailing my mom for recipes and searching online for other German foods. I’ve gotten pretty decent as a result of not being able to buy what I crave sometimes.

  • Laurel says:

    As I was reading this post, I was wishing we could trade some things, you can have my wurst if I can have your Rootbeer (which most Germans I know don’t like once they try it :) . I could also relate to your comment about foreign food, I love spicy food, which is hard to find in Germany and you’re comment about Germans missing their bread is so true. When we’re in Canada my husband makes me drive 20km to the Austrian baker (it’s the closest we can find to German). But I love the potatoes here and Bratkartoffel is one of my favorites and doners are a perfect fast food and much healtheir than North American fast food. It’s true that you don’t know what is “local” food until you move away and find that you can’t find it.

    • Sabrina says:

      You can have all the Rootbeer I can find here :) I think it’s one of those things you have to grow up with to actually enjoy – not my taste at all. Bratkartoffeln are my go-to when I don’t know what to cook. Have you tried to make them from raw potatoes? Takes longer, but is really good. 20 km for bread? I wouldn’t do that on a vacation, but if I lived there I probably would find reasons to drive there :)

  • Andrea says:

    Mmmmm… I love German bread.

  • Suzy says:

    Love German food! I sort of overdose on it whenever I am in Germany or even near its borders. I can see why you would miss it in the U.S. We are seriously lacking in German restaurants here.

    • Sabrina says:

      There are quite a few German restaurants in the Austin area, but that’s too far to go for a meal from where I live. Luckily, I learned to make quite a few things at home since I moved here. Otherwise, there would be serious withdrawal :)

  • Leah says:

    All of this looks delicious! No wonder you miss it. It doesn’t help that you’re in West Texas, one of the least diverse places in Texas. If you were closer to Fredericksburg, Boerne, Brenham, or some of the other German-settled towns, you’d have better luck. Houston has several German places and markets with German specialties. Of course, you won’t find the variety you’re used to, but it might just give you a taste of home.

    • Sabrina says:

      You’re so right, there are quite a few places in Texas where you can find pretty authentic German food. Too far for a quick meal from Lubbock though ;) I do have to say though that it’s changing here slowly but surely. When I first moved here 7 years ago there was only one store where you find some foreign things (Market Street). Now, there’s a World Market and Sprouts and that helps a lot. No German fast food though yet ;)

  • Ali says:

    I’m not sure I’ll ever love German food, but at least in Freiburg there is a wide variety of restaurants from all over the world. Andy is not exaggerating about Kartoffelhaus, it’s the most comprehensive menu based on potatoes that you could ever imagine.

    • Sabrina says:

      I think wherever you move, it always takes a little time before you find exactly the things that you like. I’ve never been to anything like a Kartoffelhaus, but I’d love to try it.

  • Laurence says:

    Having a German girlfriend, and having lived in Germany for a couple of summers, I have come to love the German food, particularly the incredible Kebabs and the Currywurst! Two incredible foodstuffs ;) Also, the bread is incredible.. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a German abroad who doesn’t miss their bread!

    • Sabrina says:

      We’re proud of our bread :) If you grow up with that many different variations, you have a hard time adjusting to other countries. The closest I have gotten to dark, crusty bread outside of Germany was in bakeries in Brittany. Still haven’t found a good Kebab here in West Texas, so I miss those too. Most of the other things, I can actually cook myself after so many years abroad.

  • I LOVE that yummy bread is such an integral part of German food. And when we were housesitting in Germany we learned of a new way to eat eggs for breakfast — soft boil an egg, then place it in a little egg holder and cut then top off, then salt and scoop out the contents with a spoon! Ohmygod, yum.

    • Sabrina says:

      That’s how I usually eat my eggs for breakfast :) Unless I fry them with a little bacon. Here, you are much more likely to get an omelet filled with whatever you could possibly want. Also not bad!

  • R. Sherman says:

    Two links: Review of Bosna Grill, and photos of the menu. Look me up if you’re in the neighborhood and I’ll give you directions.

    Cheers.

  • Frau Dietz says:

    What a great post, Sabrina. And that Schnitzel photo!! I can totally imagine how much you miss all these things that I’ve now got so used to. And I have to say, now I’m cooking for him my poor husband doesn’t get half as many potatoes as he’d like ;)

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks! Your husband should consider himself lucky that you cook for him – regardless of the missing potatoes :) Do you cook a lot of English dishes?

      • Frau Dietz says:

        I cook a lot of everything!! Recently mostly Asian and Middle Eastern dishes although at the moment I’m trying out a few more Mediterranean dishes too. I just love EVERYTHING :)

        • Sabrina says:

          Aaaaah, that’s where all that hummus came from :) So good! I’ve been wanting to try and make my own falafel, but haven’t tried that yet. You? I haven’t done much Asian cooking except the odd stir-fry and a peanut sauce for pasta. Not bad at all!

          • Frau Dietz says:

            That’s EXACTLY where all the hummus came from ;) I’m not a big fan of falafel – for some reason I just don’t like chickpea flour :( But Asian food – right up my street! Can’t get enough of those incredible flavours and spicy stuff :)

          • Sabrina says:

            Chickpea flour? That wouldn’t be my thing either. They taste great though if you make them with mashed chickpeas :)

  • It’s probably no secret but I love German food! The breakfasts are something I look forward too. Then you can add in schnitzel, wursts, bread, potatoes, spatzle, white asparagus and everything in between.

  • John says:

    I wish there was more German food in the United States, especially Colorado! It all looks so delicious.

    • Sabrina says:

      More German food would be very much appreciated by me as well :) I still haven’t made it to Colorado, but hear it’s beautiful!

  • Dani says:

    Great post – you totally make me want to get on the next plane to Germany!! I have been dreaming about a proper German breakfast recently, and I am so looking forward to having one! I love Brunch too, and Brie & Gouda are a Must! Jess and I both love the cheap vegetarian Doners – we’re tempted to live in Berlin for a while just to indulge in Doners and German food :)

    • Sabrina says:

      I’ve never had a vegetarian Doener, but I think they would be really good as well. Love the cabbage and other veggies that usually go in there. And the sauce…. yummy! But yes, German breakfast is the best :) Sometimes I splurge here to recreate one: $0.50 tiny Broetchen, $7 Brie, $4 Gouda…. oh well, sometimes you have to indulge, right?!

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *