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Currywurst turns 65, no retirement plans

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Master chef Alfons Schuhbeck knocks up an old classic at his Munich restaurant. Photo: DPA
15:14 CEST+02:00
Thursday marks 65 years since the 'invention' of the Currywurst, if dousing a sausage in ketchup and powdered spice can be so described. The ubiquitous snack has firmly carved its niche, and now most tourists won't leave Germany without trying one.

It was no culinary epiphany, but rather a combination of tipping rain, tedium and curiosity that prompted Herta Heuwer to create what has become a fast food legend.

"Out of boredom I mixed spices with tomato sauce, and it tasted wonderful," the former snack van worker told the N24 news website.

Ten years after that wet September day in 1949, Heuwer registered her recipe at the Patent Office in Munich, where it was initially given the name "Chillup" because of the two main original ingredients, chilli and ketchup. 

Her van operated in the American sector of Berlin, close to Checkpoint Charlie. Today, somewhat incongruously, a dedicated Currywurst Museum that opened here in 2009 receives almost as much attention as the iconic Cold War site. Some 80,000 people reportedly drop in for a tour and a ticket-inclusive taster each year.

Some challenge Heuwer's claim to have cooked up the original recipe, though, insisting that the snack originated in Hamburg or the Ruhrgebiet.

Either way, Germans and visitors to the country chomped through an estimated 60 million spiced-up, saucy sausages in 2013. Despite its reputation, however, the Currywurst is only king of the street sausage, not the snacks: more people buy sandwiches, burgers and kebabs. 

But a loyal following still queues up daily at outlets like Konnopke's Imbiss in Berlin, the first takeaway to serve Currywurst in the city, to enjoy a snack that is cheap, quick and tasty, even if it loses points for health. For added doctor's dismay, the dish is often served up with fries and a large dollop of mayonnaise

"We have eaten a Currywurst everyday over the past three days!" 20-year-old Berliner Lisa told The Local as she showed her visiting aunt and uncle around town.

Another local, Hendrik Siemers, said he eats Currywurst only four or five times a year, but believes the dish is also "a tourist magnet".

But like any proud institution, the Currywurst must also evolve to survive in times of fierce competition.

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Vegetarian versions with no skin are now available, and the snack has even made its way onto the menus of a number of upscale restaurants, albeit as a tongue-in-cheek addition.

For the more romantic devotee, the CurryCologne restaurant in Cologne also offers special candle-lit dinners to couples, featuring, you guessed it, a sausage doused in ketchup and spice powder. And fries.

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