1. Weisswurst mit Brezel
Once you’ve tasted the delights of this white German sausage, there really is no going back. In Bavaria, the homeland of Weisswurst, locals insist it should only be eaten before midday. So if you want to fit in, make sure not to order it in a restaurant after noon. Instead buy it at a butchers, go home, draw your curtains – then sneak a second helping where no Bavarian can see you.
Weisswurst needs to be as fresh as possible, and a salty pretzel with a sweet mustard dip are essential accessories. And this heavenly experience wouldn’t be complete without a cool local beer. Yes Weisswurst is a breakfast food, but this is Bavaria we’re talking about.
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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Takeaway
We step over the border from Bavaria to Baden-Württemberg for this heavy, sinful dinner. Spätzle is Germany’s very own form of pasta. It is essentially small pellets made of eggs, flour and water. It can be served as a side to Schweinebraten (roast pork), but is most famous when it takes centre stage in Käsespätzle.
And the meal does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a pile of Spätzle covered in melted cheese. The best recipes mix together Bergkäse, Appenzeller, Emmentaler and a couple of other local cheeses. Fried onions crown this heart attack-inducing delight.
This ridiculously calorific dessert consists of ice cream, apple sauce, advocaat and whipped cream, and can commonly be found in restaurants across former East Germany.
In fact, the name proves just how socialist this most luxurious of treats is. When Sweden beat West Germany at ice hockey in the 1952 Winter Olympics, East German leader Walter Ulbricht named his favourite treat in their honour.
4. Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus
This surprisingly tasty dish perfectly encapsulates the non-frills Teutonic approach to cooking. It consists of nothing other than grated potato pancakes and apple sauce. The potatoes are bound together into little patties using egg, flour and seasoning and then fried. Before serving, a few slops from the jar of apple sauce (which every German household has in the fridge) are thrown on top – and voila.
This treat is particularly associated with the Harz region in central Germany.
5. Spargel mit Butter
Germans go absolutely mad for Spargel (white asparagus). In late spring every year, little wooden huts pop up all over the country offering the pale sprout by the bag full.
As with much of the best German cuisine, simplicity is key. The finest way to serve Spargel is the most established. The boiled asparagus is accompanied by boiled potatoes and breaded pork. A thick helping of melted butter – or Hollandaise sauce – is then oozed all over the vegetables. To die for (and if you eat enough, you probably will).
We head back down to Baden-Württemberg for this classic of German cuisine. Maultaschen are kind of like ravioli but much bigger. A pasta dough is the casing for a mouth-watering mix of minced meat, smoked meat and spinach, bread crumbs and onions.
The dish is traditionally eaten during the Easter period on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Legend has it that monks created Maultaschen so that the meat which they weren't supposed to eat during Lent was hidden from God. To this day, a nickname for them is Herrgottsbescheißerle (little God cheaters).
7. Rheinischer Sauerbraten
This dish traditional to the west German Rhine region used to include horse meat, before slaughtering equines went drastically out of fashion in recent decades. Nowadays beef is the standard option.
The meat is marinated for days in a mixture of vinegar, wine and various herbs. It is then roasted and served with a sauce which consists of raisins, the left-over marinade and a sweetener, which is sometimes the Christmas cookie Lebkuchen.
Sauerbraten with Klösse. Photo: DPA/DBB
8. Thüringer Klösse
The East German state of Thuringia prides itself on its Bratwurst, proudly claiming it to be the best in Germany. But another specialty of the state is the Klösse – a dumpling made out of potato.
Preparation of the potato dumpling is too complicated for any normal mortal to get their head around, involving as it does the use of a specialist Kloßquirl, a beating instrument traditionally made out of an old Christmas tree (it really doesn't get more German than that).
So next time you have a free weekend, head to the little-visited state of Thuringia and order yourself some Sauerbraten with Klösse. And with the state offering much more than traditional food, you won't regret it.
9. Green Sauce
This specialty of Frankfurt is so regional that you probably won’t be able to find the ingredients sold together outside of the city and the surrounding area.
Made of a bunch of herbs including cress, parsley, sorrel, and chives, mixed together with hard-boiled egg yolks and yogurt, it is often served with boiled potatoes (of course!). But it also goes very well with fish or meat.
Our final stop on this culinary zigzag through Germany is the northwest coast and the city of Hamburg. Naturally, what marks Germany’s famous port town out is its fresh fish – and one treat particular to the Hanseatic city is Krabbensalat (crab salad).
This dish is common to much of north Germany. It can be prepared in a number of ways and can include shrimp or crab. But the Hamburger variety is to be recommended, and it is very simple. The fresh crab meet is mixed with lemon juice and dill, and that's it.