The food scene in Berlin is quite sophisticated and entertaining, but the one dish that defines Berlin more than any other city is currywurst.
In the airports, the train stations, hotels and hotspots of Berlin, currywurst is as common as hamburgers in the U.S. It’s both a fast food item and a gourmet dish at high-end restaurants. But the overwhelming favorite for the best place to enjoy currywurst is from a Berlin street vendor.
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What is Wurst
In addition to the meat, which is most often a beef or pork, wursts are stuffed full of a variety of spices, including fennel, caraway seeds and paprika. Sometimes the stuffing includes potatoes, bread or celery.
So it would make sense that currywurst is stuffed with curry, right? Well, you would be wrong. Currywurst starts with a very mild weisswurst or white wurst. The meat is veal and the spices are hardly discernible. It can be either grilled, fried or boiled, then sliced in small chunks. The curry in currywurst is in the tomato sauce poured over the top just before serving.
Ordering Currywurst in Berlin
When ordering currywurst in Berlin, you’ll likely be asked if you want it with skin or without. East Berliners prefer it without, but West Berliners prefer it with skin and deep fried.
We were told that French Fries as a side dish is not authentic and simply reflects the fast food culture. True currywurst is served with a warm German potato salad. And a nice stein of beer, of course.
I’m not a fan of curry in huge amounts and I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by a few wursts over the years. But I consumed an entire serving of currywurst without any ill after effects. Using an expression my late grandfather would often use when referencing food he didn’t particularly like, “I’d hate to have to winter on it.”
For a more in-depth study of the origins of currywurst and all of the arguments of how best to eat it and with what, visit the official Currywurst Museum in Berlin, a quirky little place that opened in 2009 at Schützenstraße 70. The museum, which includes a sausage-shaped couch and a snack bar that serves at least a dozen varieties of currywurst, is located within two blocks of Checkpoint Charlie.