For Better or Wurst: Sausage Adventures in Berlin

A plate of currywurst from Fritz & Co. credit: Alyssa Belter

Currywurst is nothing short of a Berlin institution. Who would have thought that a link of pork sausage, or wurst, cut into thick slices, absolutely doused in ketchup and finished with a sprinkle of curry powder would become one of the country’s most popular snacks with over 800 million servings consumed each year? Miss Herta Heuwer likely thought no such thing when she created the concoction using supplies obtained from American and British soldiers occupying West Berlin during the Cold War. Now a museum in the city is dedicated to the nationally revered snack that everyone from polished businessmen to clubbing kids pays homage to. Currywurst is usually served on a plain paper plate, often accompanied by a small roll or side of frites, and eaten using a tiny plastic or wooden fork while leaning against a chest-high table outside the imbiss or fast food kiosk where it was bought.

I spent a whirlwind day in Berlin trying to sample a wide cross-section of currywurst in addition to as many poppyseed-laden sweets as possible. Close to my hostel and en route to the local market, Wittenbergplatz is home to two currywurst stands that focus on well-sourced meat. At Fritz & Co. the bratwurst is made with Neuland meat, which though not organic is raised according to practices that focus on animal welfare and environmental sustainability. The wurst was wonderfully dense and smooth with a pleasant waft of smoke. Each bite offered an exceptional snap. The currywurst floated in a sea of ketchup but, thanks to its balance of slightly sweet to spicy, didn’t drown. We ended up lapping it up even after the wurst was gone.

Pleased with this initial currywurst encounter, we headed to Witty’s – an organic stand kitty corner to Fritz & Co. As the experienced vendor whizzed through his orders I noticed he shook curry powder onto the takeaway plate first, reversing the usual scheme of things. Did it make a difference? The curry flavour was more predominant which contrasted nicely with the very sweet ketchup. Although the wurst looked a bit pale and slightly unappealing it tasted delicious with a very distinct pork flavour almost reminiscent of Italian sausage. However, it was coarser in texture and unfortunately lacked the lovely snap of our first.

Last but least was Curry 36; a very busy stand on Mehringdamm. This well-oiled machine whipped out the wurst in a matter of seconds. It looked promising upon first glance – the sausage crackled as if it had been thoroughly roasted over a campfire – but ultimately tasted less like meat and more like salt. The generous puddle of ketchup was ho-hum and the curry powder negligible.

If you have a hankering for currywurst but can’t make it across the Atlantic try a shorter trip across the Salish Sea. Eli’s Serious Sausage peddles a version at locations around Vancouver using bratwurst sourced from local, artisanal sausage producer D-Original. It’s usually served on a bun but you can ask to have it Berliner style.

– Alyssa Belter

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