Don't be fooled by their bland appearance. There are over 40 different varieties of bratwurst in Germany made from either pork, beef or veal;fried, grill or braised in water or beer. The brats we're speaking of are the staple of Berlin street food. Usually these dogs are grilled and served on a bun with mustard, as you see above.
The reason why I love these sausages is the freshness of the meat, if you can call a sausage fresh. There's something about them that is much different than the sausages at home. Your first bite provides an unexpected crunch as you break through the grilled casing, then gives way to the juicy meat inside. Growing up I was always a plain hot-dog kind of gal who sporadically ventured into the ketchup realm. How silly I was to ignore the magic of mustard on these grilled snacks. My favorite bratwurst above was spread with a grainy country mustard that could clear your sinuses. It's a simple meal, or "snack" as my new German friends claim, that's portable, flavorful and a bite out of the region's heritage.
While the original bratwurst dates back to the 15th centure in Thuringia in central Germany, a new kind of bratwurst has claimed the title of Berliners' most beloved snack: Currywurst. But before I get into our currywurst experience, lets take a gander at our street food exploration at the flea market in Berlin.
So in the midst of junk stands and antique vendors stood a row of street food tents. The booths served the same items for the most part. I set off towards the one that had the largest crowd. One of my comrades above went for the split pea soup. Since german street food is not entirely vegetarian friendly we considered this quite a find. As you can see she's holding her soup in a plastic bowl, something that is definitely not meant to be disposable. Berlin is really intent on going green. Even my glass of hot mulled wine was served in a regular drinking cup. When you pay for your beverage or meal, you pay an extra euro as an insurance fee. When the eating and/or drinking vessel is returned, so is your euro. Brilliant! Though I do wonder about the cleanliness of these dishes since I did not see a sink to wash them in...
So onto currywurst. This dish is so adored in Berlin there's an entire museum dedicated to it. While it's origins are frequently contested, it's believed the currywurst was invented some time between the turn of the 20th century and the end of World War II. Meica Sausage, a popular distributer in Germany claims that there are two popular contenders for the creator of currywurst, a sausage vendor in Berlin in 1949 who created the curry sauce and served the bratwurst cut up into chunks and a sausage vendor in Hamburg who served in on a whole sausage. As you can see in these two photos, the currywurst in Berlin are served both ways.
Berlin currywurst is made with knockwurst, not kielbasa or bratwurst as some recipes indicate. While most American variations only call for a plain cooked sausage and the curried tomato sauce, the ones we tasted were definitely spiced with curry from start to finish. So far I've been unable to find a recipe that fits our experience. I'm in the process of developing one of my own and will share it during the art installation later this year (or as soon as I perfect it.) My installation piece is going to be an edible mixed media performance item. Just wait!
So let us discuss the difference between the two currywursts above. As you can see in the photos, the sliced currywurst has additional curry powder sprinkled over the dish which definitely gave it a more distinct curry flavor. The cozy currywurst wrapped in the bun also had a great curry flavor. Notice how much more red this sausage is as compared the the bratwurst at the beginning. I believe these knockwursts are seasoned with a dry rub of curry powder and maybe smoked paprika before they're grilled. Both are served with a spicy ketchup, not mustard which is the most common condiment in the area. At the moment I'm looking into the spice trade Germany had with India to find out when curry was even introduced into the area.
Krutika sampled the other popular snack found at street food vendors around the city: frites! They came in this great paper cone with a tiny wooden fork, like the ice cream spoons you'd get at the cafeteria in elementary school. One student at Hombult was kind enough to speak with me about his experience studying in NYC last year. He asked if I had been to Pommes Frites on 2nd ave. before. P-lease...boy have I been there. Smack in the middle of the East Village is a USA version of a Belgian frites stand, complete with over 20 different kinds of sauces. If you're in the area, stop by for a snack. You'd be surprised how well hot french fries cut through the cold. FYI: Pommes Frites has a Curry Ketchup you can pair with your fries...consider it a vegetarian taste of German Currywurst. I'm certainly going to give it a try.