TYPICAL BERLIN BITES & DRINKS
Berlin’s typical food and drinks are as divers as the city itself. The most popular ones reflect the multicultural society of Berlin. A Turkish immigrant for example invented Döner kebap in Berlin, which can be found on almost every corner of a street nowadays. Other snacks are more known outside the city borders; the ‘Berliner’ for instance. An overview of the most well-known Berlin meals and drinks:
Kadir Nurman came to Berlin in the 60s as a guest worker, together with thousands of other Turkish people. He noticed that people in Germany loved to eat quickly, while they were walking or working. Nurman decided to make money out of this German habit. What he did was simple: he put some meat in flatbread and started selling it in 1972 in Zoologischer Garten in Berlin.
Popular in Germany are the ‘döner kebap’ served in flatbread or the ‘dürüm döner’, served in a wrap. Traditionally, the dishes consisted of veal or beef meat, some sauce and served in a flatbread or wrap. Over the years however, the ingredients of a German döner have changed. Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap for instance uses chicken meat and adds loads of fried vegetables.
The Turkish Döner Organization in Europe, based in Berlin, estimates that there are around 16.000 döner shops Germany-wide. 600 tons of meat are fried on the skewer every day. It has become a 3,5 billion euro industry.
Apart from döners, currywurst is a beloved snack in Berlin. It’s actually pretty simple; just take fried pork sausage and season it with curry powder. Top it off with generous amounts of curry ketchup. In much the same way as döner was discovered, the Berlin woman Herta Heuwer found out in 1949 that mixing Worcestershire sauce with ketchup and curry powder gave the pork sausage a very nice taste.
She started selling the snack to construction workers in the neighbourhood of Charlottenburg. Her business was running so well that she sold more than 100.000 currywursts a week. Opposite to Nurman, Heuwer did register a patent – her sauce ‘Chillup’ was under protection from 1951.
Currywurst went on to become a central part in Berlin’s snack scene. The most famous stands where you can get a good quality currywurst nowadays can be found at ‘Konnopke’s Imbiss’ in Prenzlauerberg and ‘Curry 36‘ in Kreuzberg. Heuwer passed away in 1999, a special plaque in Charlottenburg still reminds people of the inventor of currywurst.
Probably more famous outside the city borders of Berlin than inside is the ‘Berliner’ or ‘Berliner Pfannkuchen’; a deep-fried piece of dough, filled with jam and topped with sugar. Especially around New Year’s Eve and the traditional carnival this snack is very popular.
The roots of this calorie-rich bite are commonly believed to lie in the year 1756, when a baker wanted to join the army of Friedrich the Great but was found unfit for the army. He could however get a place in the army as a baker. To thank his chiefs for this opportunity, he baked pieces of dough in the form of cannonballs. Because there wasn’t an oven for him to use, he simply fried them in pots. The ‘Berliner Pfannkuchen’ was born.
The popular snack got more fame when the president of the USA, John F. Kennedy came to Berlin in 1963 and said the famous words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ at the stairs of ‘Rathaus Schöneberg’ in West Berlin. It was a cause for laughter to some people – as they joked that the president had just announced to the world that he was in fact a piece of deep-fried dough.
‘Berliner Weisse’ can also be counted to the list of specialty beers. This white beer can be traced back to Halberstadt, where a beer brewer called Cord Broihan came back from a stay in Hamburg in the year 1526. He wanted to imitate the beer from Hamburg, but his tries lead to something more successful instead; the Berliner Weisse.
Later on, Berliners started adding schnaps to the beer. Nowadays, people like to drink this beer nowadays with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrup – giving the drink the (unnatural) colours of red or green. Woodruff is flavour much loved in this region and is used in many forms: in the candy from Hjalmar Stecher for example.