Germany’s omnipresent wurst (sausage) surprisingly comes curry-flavored in Berlin. Currywurst is found throughout the country in almost any venue from imbiss stands to biergartens to elevated versions in modern German restaurants. In fact, it is estimated that 800 million currywurst are sold every year in Germany, with over 100 million in Berlin alone!
The dish is composed of a bratwurst that has been lovingly deep-fried, sliced into bite-sized sections and served with a distinctive curry ketchup sauce and a finishing dusting of curry powder.
You really haven't visited Berlin if you haven't had a currywurst. Here is your guide to the best of currywurst in Berlin and beyond.
History of Currywurst
For such a popular snack, it is surprising that its origins are not crystal clear. The most popular story holds that this unique blend of seasoning comes from a Trümmerfrauen (rubble woman) in 1949 in Berlin. A German housewife named Herta Heuwer was desperate to liven up a meager post-war diet. She concocted a trade of booze for English curry powder and added it to a tomato/ketchup sauce with Worcestershire and paired it with a grilled sausage. Viola! Something familiar took on a whole new flavor and currywurst was born.
The dish was an immediate hit and Frau Heuwer began selling it from a street stand to the many workers putting the city back together. The price? Just 60 pfennig (roughly $0.50). This was an essential element in making it a food of the people. The sausage has even come to symbolize the proletariat. Today, German politicians jockey for position with photos of themselves at their favorite stand. Watch around election time for photos of your preferred bigwig eating a sausage. This is a political act and will be publicized.
Back in the time of Herta, other vendors were quick to compete but no one ever got her exact recipe. Though Frau Heuwer opened a permanent snack bar on Kantstraße (on the corner of Kaiser-Friedrichs-Straße), it closed in the 1970s and she never told a soul the secret to her sauce - not even her husband. Birgit Breloh heads the Currywurst Museum and reports that Frau Heuwer "...took [the recipe] with her to her grave when she died in 1999."
Guide to Currywurst
As I mentioned, this is one of the easiest meals to find throughout Germany, and particularly in Berlin. It is at nearly every imbiss (street food stand) and has been elevated to plated meal at many traditional German restaurants.
To order a currywurst, ask for it skin on by saying "currywurst mit darm" or without skin by saying "currywurst ohne darm". I recommend with skin as it adds a delightful crunchy layer. If your taste buds are craving heat, ask for the sauce to be "scharf" (spicy). This might result in cayenne powder sprinkled directly on top, or at some shops that specialize in spice (see below) hot sauce mixed into the ketchup.
To go with your currywurst, people most commonly order pommes (fries) with a healthy portion of mayo (mayonnaise), or a roll for just .10 - 20 cents extra. You need something to sop up that sauce. You can also commonly order a doppel (double). A full meal of sausage and side should cost no more than 3.50 euro.
Best Currywurst Stands in Berlin
Every vendor has their own sauce. While you can buy mass-marketed sauces in the store, the taste can be remarkably different at each stand.
It is nearly impossible to define the best stands as personal taste varies. The ketchup is a key element and is some combination of tomato paste, garlic, onion, white wine vinegar, corn syrup, allspice, curry powder, Worcestershire sauce. Some are more tomato-y, some sweeter, some have more curry powder, others deliver on a vinegar kick. While Germans generally shy away from most things spicy, currywurst can deliver tongue-tingling heat.
- Konnopke's Imbiss - Opened in 1947 as a wagon, this classic family-run stand underneath the U-Bahn is a favorite of the politician picture. and has its very own saga.
- Curry36 - The original location on Mehringdamm has been discovered by the masses. Be prepared to wait in line.
- Curry Baude - This place is a Berlin institution with an an old family recipe.
- Witty's - This stand has locations throughout the city and offers high-quality ingredients with the organic stamp of approval.
- Curry & Chili - Along with a solid currywurst, this Wedding stand specializes in the insanely spicy variety.
While it is impossible to take a currywurst home with you, elements of it make for a great Berlin souvenir. For example, the curry ketchup travels perfectly. You can always find it in the grocery store, but major stands also sell their own brand.