I ate vegan Currywurst for the first time near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. I hope you did not miss this popular fast food during your trip to Germany. Though it was nothing close to the idea of curry in my mind (Indian curries are made up of gravy), I liked the weird and saucy fusion. Before my trip to the capital and largest city of Germany, I thought Berlin wall and street art were synonymous to the spirit of Berlin, only to be corrected later that Currywurst was no less a firm contender. It is a mass favorite for sure. The umpteen number of Currywurst vendors and kiosks, practically at every corner of the city acknowledge their love for this German invention by making it in their own ways. The fandom is such that there’s even a Currywurst Museum.
Well, the geographical boundaries may exist, people do hail from East Berlin & West Berlin and stories of the divided city are still afloat, but no side claims their right on Currywurst. Everyone just eats it. This is one dish that unites everyone.
What is this sausage dish of Berlin ?
Literally, Currywurst has no existence without the sausage or bratwurst. I am sure there can be many versions of it but what I could make out was there were three main ingredients of it – smoked, boiled and fried sausage, ketchup and curry powder. The sliced sausage is topped with ketchup and curry powder and served with potato fries. I know you might be wondering whats so special about it but just that its curried and simple, that it is touted as the most loved fast foods of Germany.
I was in Berlin with a vegetarian friend and instead of trying one of the conventional meat sausage concoction, we tried the one made with tofu. I am not sure of the name of the shop but it was right opposite Checkpoint Charlie. I am glad they had a vegetarian sausage for people like us who are plant-eaters and don’t want to miss out on this authentic Berlin experience. This is just one of the type, among the varieties available.
Originally, it started with a pork sausage and even today, it is local’s favorite. Herta Heuwer had a special recipe and it was more about sausages and spices in curry powder, that made it stand out. Ketchup was never an important characteristic. She never shared her recipe, though she did patent her tomato sauce, “Chillup Soße” in 1959.
Now, there are many variations and vendors have taken liberties to make it as per the changing taste buds. Some find the sauce overwhelming and only prefer the sprinkles of curry powder while some love with dollops of ketchup. Sauce and fries can be asked as side dishes. One can substitute ketchup for the sauce, or use their own recipe. Some use skinless sausages while some serve it with extra spicy, garlicky sauce. Some get really really notorious with the sauce. Today, the secret of every kiosk is their curried sauce or the curry powder.
History of Currywurst
No discussion on Currywurst is complete without talking about Herta Heuwer, the mastermind behind this dish. The stories go that one day, she combined the German sausage with some ketchup and curry powder and created Berliner all time favorite snack. The dish became successful and today, 4th September is celebrated as the day of Currywurst, in the whole of Germany.
How did she procure curry powder and spices and ketchup? During the post-war period, she had exchanged these items with the allied soldiers with something useful for them and had used to make a quick fix for herself. A few others tasted it and loved it. Later, it became a rage. 1949 is the year when it was invented. I am sure the Americans added ketchup to it. Thanks to cultural exchange, we have currywurst today.
Places to Eat
Later, when my curiousness took over, I read about the recommended places to eat Currywurst. Also, to talk to the locals and learn about some Berliner secrets, these curry houses are the best places to stop, refuel and start again. Here they are –
Konnopke’s Imbiss is one of the best currywurst stations in Berlin, with some connection with the history too.
Curry 207 by Checkpoint Charlie. I think I had it here.
Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has this sausage dish as well as lots of street food.
Curry Mitte and Curry Baude are also quite popular. Curry 61 has vegetarian version too.