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German food: more than bratwurst.

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

I have to admit to being a fan of all things German, so you can imagine my irritation when in every TV programme or YouTube post I’ve seen where German food is discussed, the usual clichés of sausages or heavy pork dishes or creamy cakey desserts are trotted out to a background of umpah music. Even Rick Stein, whose family are german, fell into the trap!

While to some extent the clichés are based on a reality (and is a reality to many tourists), they do an injustice to a nation and a developing foodie culture, so, I’d like to redress that imbalance by putting traditional German food into context and showing some of the more interesting food that can be found by only being just a little more adventurous and avoiding the easy comfort of the biergarten.

In reality what is perceived as “German” food merely equates to British pub food and while these traditional “Brauhaus/Biergarten” foods are indeed delicious, they are actually a simplified version of traditional regional comfort foods; easy to deliver and hard to mess up.

Typically one would expect to find

Hauptgericht: Mains:

Eisbein/Sauerbraten Fish and Chips/fish of the day

Himmel and Erd Bangers and mash

Schnitzel Pies

Schweinshaxe Gammon steak

Würste: Bratwurst/Currywurst/Bockwurst Curry

Gulash/Rouladen/Eintopf Lasagne/bolognaise

Frikadellen Burger

Beilage: Sides:

Pommes/brat kartoffel Chips/fries

Sauerkraut Peas/seasonal veg mix

Rotkohl salad

Knodel/kasespätzle mash

Petersilienkartoffel Boiled/New potatoes

Kartoffelsalat Rice/Poppadums/naan

Spargel Garlic bread

Nachtisch: Dessert/pudding:

Swarzwaldkirch Torte Sticky toffee pudding

Spaghettieis Cheesecake

Käsekuchen Apple crumble

Apfelstrudel Lemon tart

Kaiserschmarrn Brownies

zuzammen mit schlag oder eis All served with cream, custard or ice cream

These lists are not intended as comparisons, just an outline of what one might expect for lunch/dinner by turning up at a Brauhaus/Biergarten/pub, both sets of menus will be delicious.

However, Germany has many food delights just waiting to discovered for the slightly more adventurous diner. These dishes are regionally aware, use locally sourced fresh produce, are inspired by seasonality, borrowing from neighbours and while leaning heavily away from the brownness of the traditional speise karte, are equally delicious and will leave you with a very different impression of what modern Germany is and miles away from the Umpah of Munich bier halls.

So here are a few: I have discovered that Germans love fish, either from the sea or lakes (Zander being a particular favourite) along with adventurous vegetarian meals using seasonal locally picked mushrooms (particularly chanterelles “Pfifferling” during Autumn) and exquisitely made pastries with almonds (Mandeln).

Meals like these, complemented by regional wines and followed up with a pear fein Brande liqueur, leave you with a totally different sense of Germany. They tend to be served in small uncrowded family run restaurants often associated with hotels and make you feel glad that you avoided the throng of the brauhaus or biergarten which should be savoured as an occasional treat when only a bier and good comfort food will do.

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