Great sausages, epic bakeries, more beer than any beer lover could possibly dream of. Those are probably some of the things you think of when you imagine food from Germany, and you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that all of those things were pretty accurate. Having said that, German cuisine goes much further than simply tasty meat and bread, washed down with a decent beer, even if that is all you want to eat whilst you’re there.
During our stay at Maximilian Apartments & Hotel we experienced a lot of great Bavarian cuisine; delicious food rich in flavor and history. Here’s a run-down of German cuisine, and all the delicious treats you find on offer in this incredible country.
The average German consumes 130lb of meat a year, a statistic that manages to convey very well just how much this country loves their meat. Bratwurst sausage is amongst the most popular meat dish you’ll find all over Germany, and its usually made of ground pork and spices, although the dish has developed and there are now many signature bratwursts on the market (over 40 in total). For the most part, many of these specialties come from the region of Bavaria.
Bratwurst is a dish you will find on many streets sold from vendors, making it one of Germany’s most popular street food snacks. The sausage is put into a bread bun and served with mustard – kind of like the German version of hotdogs! In the Munich area, bratwurst is mainly made with beef, due to the large number of cows farmed in the area.
Another popular way of serving meat in Germany is to roast it in a sour sauce, and this is done with meats such as beef, horse, or venison, and is called Sauerbraten, literally meaning ‘sour roast’. This meat is then served with potatoes and various vegetables, and plenty of gravy. Germany has a long standing tradition of serving potatoes and dumplings, so it would not be uncommon for you to find either of these with meat dishes. In Munich, Schweinshaxe is a popular example of a meat and potatoes dish, which is a roasted ham hock or pork knuckle, with a large side of starchy goodness.
Munich is a city extremely famous for veal consumption, and you will find that referred to in writing about cuisine in Munich from the early 20th century. A common joke was that people from Munich would happily eat veal morning, noon, and night if they could.
Surprisingly enough to some, noodles are quite a popular side dish in Germany, and their version, which is named ‘spätzle’ are a kind of egg noodle made of very simple ingredients. Spätzle is usually served with, you guessed it, meat, and lots of sauce or gravy. If you were looking for a vegetarian version, you would probably find spätzle served with lentils and a sauce, although I imagine the Germans would try and insist on putting a sausage on top.
Aside from the abundance of potato-based sides you’ll find with most German dishes, the locals do actually consume vegetables as well, we promise! Vegetables are predominantly cooked up with stews along with meat, and you’ll find plenty of hearty root vegetables with most German dishes. White asparagus, known in Germany as ‘spargel’, is a very popular side dish, and is often served with hollandaise sauce.
There is a huge array of desserts on offer in Germany, desserts that are melt-in-your-mouth masterpieces. Germany excels at making giant cakes, usually fruit based such as huge black forest gateaux, which in Germany would be known as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Just imagine a multi-layered chocolate cake with plenty of whipped cream and cherries – that’s the German version of black forest gateaux.
In Bavaria, you’ll find lots of ‘gugelhupf’, which is like bundt cake, also popular in Switzerland and Hungary. It has a distinctive ring shape and is usually eaten in the afternoon during a coffee break. Many of these cakes can also be soaked in brandies, such as cheery brandy, so always make sure you ask the baker what kind of gugelhupf it is before buying if that’s not your thing!
Time to get onto the really good stuff – bread. The Germans have over 600 kinds of bread, and it is a staple part of the German diet. It is rarely used as a side dish like you might find in other parts of the globe, and Germans prefer to serve it with breakfast or in the evening as open-topped sandwiches. One bread that you might be most familiar with that has transported itself from Germany to the rest of the globe in pumpernickel bread, a dark German rye bread that is known for being lower in fat but full of flavor.
There really is no explaining all the kinds of breads you can buy in Germany, as they make anything from the whitest of white bread to dark, rich, dense loaves. For the real deal just walk into a bakery and let the fragrance fill your nostrils – it’s one of the most exquisite smells on the planet.
With the likes of Oktoberfest pulling in tourists every year, Germany is already pretty well-known for its beer consumption. In every corner of the country you will find giant tankards of beer sold for very cheap, and these can either be local brews or international favorites. Pilsner type brews are very popular, as opposed to dark beers, but you can find something of everything wherever you go.
If you really want the traditional German beer experience, head to Munich or Berlin for Oktoberfest and you’ll find so many beers on offer that you won’t even know where to start (or stop, probably).
There basically no such thing as a light meal in Germany – much of the cuisine is very dense, and full of hearty rich ingredients that will leave you wishing you had an extra hole on your belt. In the winter months, this is extremely welcome as the food will warm every inch of your body, and keep you nicely satisfied. In the summer months, German food can still be equally satisfying, and one of the best things to do is just kick back with a bratwurst from a street vendor in the nearest available park.
Do you have any other recommendations to add to our German Cuisine list?