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You’ll never really be German until you try these 10 weird foods

What do you do when your German in-laws serve you a plate of dark and slimy Grünkohl?

You'll never really be German until you try these 10 weird foods
Yes, this is raw, ground flesh. Photo: Flickr / Markus Spiering

Germans are known for eating solid and hearty grub. There’s a reason they jokingly refer to themselves as Kartoffeln (potatoes) – no visit to the Bundesrepublik would be complete without a plate of sausage, sauerkraut and mash.

But delve further into the depths of German cuisine and your senses will be confronted by smells, tastes and sights you’ll soon regret politely accepting.

The Local has scoured least appetising aisles of the German diet to bring you the 10 foods most likely to make your stomach turn.

1. Mett – raw ground pork

Mett is the way to celebrate at this Alternative for Germany (AfD) gathering back in 2016. Photo: DPA

On special occasions such as birthdays throughout Germany, the host could well bring out a glistening mound of pink meat, often shaped like a hedgehog.

But while you might expect them to fry up some burgers with it, they will instead slice up the spikey creature and start eating it as it is – raw.

Germans also like sculpting Mett into all sorts of different shapes. The Alternative for Germany political party made a huge plate of it with their initials on top after winning 14 percent at the Berlin state election.

Some Germans have even started serving Mett in the shape of a penis.

2. Labskaus – meat mix

Can you eat that though? Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Horst Frank / Rainer Zenz

Talking about things that are worryingly pink and take up far too much of the plate, have you ever tasted Labskaus?

It’s made from ground beef, pickled beet root, onions and potatoes and was invented by desperate fishermen who needed to use ingredients that wouldn’t go off on their long journeys across the sea.

Despite the invention of vacuum packs, this dish remains strangely popular in northern Germany. Apparently they’ve inherited their ancestors stomachs, hardened to the churning North Sea.

3. Hofer Schwaaß/Gebackenes Blut – baked blood

Baked blood with Sauerkraut and potatoes. Yum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Benreit

When the good people of Franconia want to quench their thirst for blood, they have the good manners to bake the claret fluid first. In fact Gebackenes Blut (baked blood), or so called Hofer Schwaaß, is a delicacy in the north Bavarian region.

When Franconians slaughter a pig they catch the blood in a tray, mix it with bacon, onion and old bread and put it in the oven for 45 minutes. they then serve it with – yes, you’ve guessed it – potatoes and cabbage.

4. Heringssalat – herring salad

Herring salad. Photo: Flickr / PIxelfänger

Herring salad is traditional to many of the Baltic countries. The base ingredient is salted herring.

Some German recipes even call for using a delightful concoction of herring sperm and vinegar.

So visitors to north Germany can perhaps count themselves lucky that they’ll only have to stomach a few mouthfuls of herring, mixed with beetroot, gherkins and mayonnaise before gratefully rubbing their bellies. 

But if even this mixture is too much for much for your delicate stomach, avoid Christmas invites in the northern regions of Germany, where it is traditional to eat it on Christmas Eve.

5. Grünkohl – green cabbage 

Dig in. Photo: Flickr / frankbehrens

While often served as a side dish, the sight of Grünkohl alone is enough to spoil your appetite.

Even next to one of those famous, golden-brown, German sausages, it still conjures up images of that night-out two months ago when you imbibed a little too much alcohol, with unintended consequences.

Initially, Grünkohl starts out as nothing but an innocent-looking kale plant until it’s picked apart, cooked, and mixed with stewed onions and often bacon, eventually turning into an odd-smelling mush.

Still, north Germans gobble it down without thinking twice.

6. Bremer Knipp – another meat mix

A Bremen delicacy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Gerd Fahrenhorst

A pattern seems to be emerging here. Frankly, we’re beginning to wonder if north Germans eat anything that doesn’t look like it has just been regurgitated by a seagull.

Traditional in Germany’s smallest city state of Bremen, Bremer Knipp is made from oat grout, pork or beef, allspice and other herbs.

It’s best served with the indispensable German potato – or, alternatively, apple sauce.

7. Schmalz – animal fat

Duck Schmaltz. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Rainer Zenz

If you take your kids to play in their first junior football match, you’ll almost certainly find a football mum among the parents who has made sandwiches for everyone.

After a long day of cheering on your child, you might hungrily unwrap the sandwich only to find a translucent, odd-smelling slime spread across the bread.

This slime is Schmalz, which is fat, often taken from pigs, that’s melted, mixed with onions and other ingredients and set to harden into a cream afterwards. 

While you can find Schmalz in many German regions, Bavaria is particularly known for its Griebenschmalz, which is the same slimy substance with pork speck in it.

8. Zungenwurst – tongue sausage

There’s tongue in that sausage. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Tamorlan

If you’re brought up in Germany, you’re more or less compelled to eat huge amounts of bread for lunch every day, eventually forcing you to find ways of spicing up your Käsebrot (cheesebread).

Some Germans, bored with Salami, Schinken (ham) and co., had the bright idea of ripping out pigs’ tongues, mixing them with blood, onion and bacon and calling the whole thing Zungenwurst.

Zungenwurst is part of the German Blutwurst family, and among the variety of bloody sausages you can find across the Bundesrepublik, Thuringian Rotwurst is known to be the queen of them all.

9. Sülze – aspic

Trapped in aspic. Photo: Wikipedia Commons / Rainer Zenz

Even if two foods make for incredibly unlikely bed fellows, Germans find a way of making them inseparable by trapping them in Sülze (aspic).

To produce aspic, a cooled glass or metal jar is filled with seasoned liquid jelly, which is then cooled. As soon as a coat has formed on the liquid, little ice cold pieces of filling such as meat, fish, fruit, etc. are placed inside, the jar is then re-filled with jelly and finally put in a fridge until the whole substance hardens. 

When walking through your grocery store in most regions of Germany, you’ll encounter pieces of pineapple and chicken stuck in big globs of this wobbly substance, either in jars or as vacuum-sealed slabs.

10. Soleier – pickled eggs

Eery eggs in a jar. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Doktor Zion

You may walk into a friend’s basement looking for a beer on a Saturday evening and come across a wall-sized shelf stacked with glasses full of eggs.

But rather than breeding an army of chicks, your friend probably uses the mixture to keep the eggs from going off.

Germans like to pickle pretty much everything – which is why your local store is sure to have a whole aisle of pickled carrots, onions, tomatoes, and many more things.

If you want to still your ravenous pickle hunger, the Spreewald area in the state of Brandenburg just outside of Berlin is famously known for its excellent gherkin.

But beware – eating mass amounts of “Gewürzgurken” (pickled cucumbers) is often seen by Germans as a sign of pregnancy.

Member comments

  1. Really? Some of these are real treats – but described in this way can turn anyone off from tasting them. Grünkohl is one of the examples in this article – way to go in describing one of the most healthy vegetables (considered to be a superfood) in the most unappetizing way possible!
    One could not possibly like a dish made of legs torn off little lambs, thrown into a mix of wine, broth and vegetables and baked forever, right? Well, you just said good bye to slow cooked lamb shanks – one of the delicacies of American cuisine…

  2. Grünkohl, Baked Blood, Pickled Eggs all good. Some of the others I haven’t tried, but Sülze? From the first time we saw it in a Supermarket we named it “sliced Barf” – I mean, just look at it! 🙂

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EXPLAINED: A guide to the best international supermarkets in Berlin

EXPLAINED: A guide to the best international supermarkets in Berlin
Archive photo shows fruit from Vietnam sold at the Dong Xuan Center. Photo: Stefan Weißenborn/dpa-tmn

It was in the middle of a Rewe, of all places, where I first experienced a wave of culture shock. 

Since moving to Berlin I thought I had adapted well. I’d mastered the, at first, confusing public transport. I’d adjusted to the “Berliner Schnauze”. I’d even managed to fumble my way into a Meldebescheinigung (obligatory registration of residence). 

And yet, standing here in the tea section of a German supermarket, scanning the shelves desperately for anything resembling breakfast tea, a wave of panic hit me. 

READ ALSO: The complete German supermarket survival guide

I couldn’t have felt more un-German. 

For most of us, what we eat and drink is a huge part of our identity. A quick Google search shows that food is one of the most frequently named topics in conversations about homesickness and expat adjustment. 

Many expat sites suggest cooking home meals every now and again as a way to combat this feeling. But in German grocery shops, where spices are often limited to “Currypulver” and paprika, that’s often easier said than done. 

Even if you’re a more well-adjusted Berliner than me, you may want to know where you can get some more interesting ingredients from. While Covid-19 is still suspending a lot of travel, you can still get your culture fix with a cookbook – if you know where to get the ingredients. 

With this in mind, I’ve narrowed down a (non-exhaustive) list of the best international supermarkets in Berlin. 

Hao Cai Lei Asia Supermarket 

There are loads of great “Asia-Supermärkte” (which can mean any combination of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian and more) in Berlin. My personal favourite is Hao Cai Lei. 

This small shop just down the road from the Hermannplatz U-Bahn station boasts an impressive collection of fresh and preserved ingredients. 

There’s a comprehensive selection of Asian cooking basics, which aren’t limited to food either. They also sell steamers and other cooking utensils. 

But what sets Hao Cei Lei apart from other shops is their unrivalled choice of tofu (for fellow veggies) and a well-curated selection of traditional and contemporary East-Asian spirits and wines.

They also sell 100-year old duck eggs and other quick (and quirky) snacks. 

Note: On Google Maps, the shop comes up as “Hao-You-duo Asia Supermarket”

Karl-Marx-Strasse 15, 12043, Berlin

Centro Italia Supermercato

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There are now three of these Supermercatos in Berlin. I’ve only been to Greifswalderstraße. The other two are in Mariendorf and Charlottenburg. 

It was a good sign that everyone in it, whether staff or customer, was speaking Italian. 

The Centro Italia has a huge selection of dried pastas, and a fridge with freshly made ravioli, tortellini and gnocchi. 

While they don’t have fresh fruit and veggies or meats, they have more or less everything that can be tinned, dried or put in a jar.  

The best part of the shop, however, is their deli counter with a mouth-watering display of cheeses, hams and antipasti, as well as a little bakery section with fantastic rustic loafs. 

Another bonus is that every branch has a big car park (not a given in Berlin). 

Greifswalder Str. 80C, 10405 Berlin

Großbeerenstraße 169-171, 12277 Berlin

Sophie-Charlotten-Straße 9-10, 14059 Berlin

Zora Supermarket – Indian, Asian, African Grocery 

Zora is another smaller grocery shop in Kottbusser Tor. It’s therefore a place for African and Indian cooking basics, rather than a specialist store. 

However, the reason it’s on this list is their small but excellent fresh fruit and veg section. 

READ ALSO: Your complete guide to German supermarkets

On my visits, Zora has so far won out everytime on freshness, quality and choice. From bright green, unwrinkled okra, karela and green plantains, to ingredients that are harder to get elsewhere like cassava and green mango, Zora has you covered. 

While I haven’t tried them, their fresh sweets look promising, with a choice of Jalebi, cham, gulab or laddu. 

Zora is also irresistibly affordable. 

Kottbusser Damm 93, 10967 Berlin

Broken English 

Broken English has faced some challenges since Brexit came into force. However, in keeping with the British character, they deal with it through light grumbling and sarcasm on an entertaining Facebook page

British products are displayed at Broken English in this archive photo from 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Gregor Fischer

While it’s not the cheapest (Brexit probably plays a role in this), they have a great selection of UK products – from scone batter to Scottish shortbread and, significantly, English breakfast tea. 

They even sell some fresh and frozen produce, like cheeses, hams and Linda McCartney’s veggie sausages (praise the Lord). 

And for the Scots, there’s even Irn Bru (if you know, you know).

Arndtstraße 29, 10965 Berlin

Turkish Market 

It’s basically impossible to pick a favourite Turkish grocery shop in Berlin. I live in Neukölln and tend to just go for my local (a whole thirty seconds away from my front door). 

That said, the Turkish Market on Maybachufer does have a special place in my heart. It’s relatively large, and so has a big selection of more specialised ingredients. 

It also has one of the biggest bakery sections I have seen so far. 

Even better: there’s an entire aisle for herbs and spices, so it’s my go-to shop whenever I’m looking for lesser-known components in recipes. 

Another advantage is that they’re right next to the Neuköllner Wochenmarkt, an open-air food market along the canal where you can buy fresh veg, or delicious food-to-go. 

Maybachufer 1 13, 10999 Berlin

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Other great shops: 

Chili & Paprika – a Mexican supermarket in Danziger Straße: one of the more affordable and comprehensive South American supermarkets in Berlin 

L’epicerie – a gourmet French shop near Mauerpark: it’s definitely on the pricey side but offers some fantastic looking luxury patês and wines

Mitte Meer – a relatively affordable supermarket for all things Mediterranean, with three locations in Berlin  

Dong Xuan Center – Germany’s biggest and most famous Vietnamese supermarket. As well as a grocery store, it boasts a big general goods market and a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant and bar.

US-Shop Berlin Any Americans missing mac and cheese or pop tarts will be relieved to stumble upon this one-stop shop, conveniently centrally situated near Tempelhof.

Superiberico – This hidden gem on Markgrafenstrasse sells more than Iberico ham: it’s Germany’s largest selection of Spanish and Latin American groceries, including a comprehensive wine section!
Thai Park – Though this is actually a street food market and not a supermarket, we thought it was worth a mention. Alongside the mouth-watering authentic snacks on offer, there are also some stalls that sell fresh ingredients, especially fruit and veg that are harder to get elsewhere.