Berlin, Germany, has an estimated 2,000 currywurst stands (bude). Currywurst is a hot sliced pork sausage, topped with a bright red curried ketchup sauce.
The fast food is so popular that Berliners eat 70 million currywürste annually. The take-out sausage also has a cult-like following throughout Germany, with Germans eating more than 800 million currywurst every year.
Besides currywurst, Berlin schnellimbisse (snack bars), or imbisse for short, serve hamburgers and Turkish doner kebabs. But currywurst is the only Berlin street food with its own museum.
Deutsches Currywurst Museum
In August 2009, 60 years after the invention of currywurst, the Deutsches Currywurst Museum opened near Checkpoint Charlie and the Mauermuseum. Located one block east of Friedrich Strasse, at Schützen Strasse 70, the Berlin Currywurst Museum is easy to reach by public transport (bus, U-Bahn and S-Bahn).
Open daily, from 10 am to 10 pm, the Deutsches Currywurst Museum offers audio guides in several languages and guided tours in English and German. You can also take a self-guided tour because the signs are in English and German.
In just over an hour, you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about currywurst, and then some. The Deutsches Currywurst Museum logo, above the door, depicts a yellow wurst (sausage) with a squiggle of red curry sauce and the word Berlin above it.
The sausage museum decor includes sausage-shaped couches and benches, as well as a currywurst sauce sculpture, dripping large red drops from the ceiling, and oversized French fries sprouting from the floor.
Types of currywurst
A display shows the many varieties of currywurst and the ways it's served. Many currywurst snack bars serve the sliced sausage in a ridged rectangular paper container, smothered with red sauce and a sprinkle of curry powder.
You use a small wooden or plastic fork to pick up the sausage chunks. Some Berlin fast food restaurants serve currywurst on a plate.
Currywurst accompaniments vary, as well, from white or wholegrain bread rolls to French fries, sometimes topped with mayonnaise. Occasionally, currywurst is served with potato salad.
Berlin visitors are often surprised to be asked if they want their currywurst with the darm (the pig's intestine or casing skin encompassing the sausage) left on or taken off the sausage.
Different versions of curry wurst developed on each side of the Berlin Wall. Traditionally, in West Berlin, currywurst was crisply fried with the skin on. In East Berlin, currywurst was traditionally boiled without the casing, so it is softer. Skinless currywurst evolved from a pork intestine shortage in socialist East Germany.
The origin of currywurst is controversial. Hamburg claims that its sausage-makers first made currywurst in 1947. The Ruhr area of Germany also states that it's the birthplace of currywurst.
The Deutsches Currywurst Museum acknowledges the claims, but explains that Herta Heuwer invented currywurst in1949 in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin. Visitors can watch an archival film interview of Herta Heuwer, crediting her with inventing currywurst.
A plaque in Charlottenburg commemorates the location of Heuwer's stand, where she sold currywurst to construction workers and laborers rebuilding post-war Berlin. While rationing was taking place in Berlin, Herta Heuwer obtained ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder from British soldiers, and used the spices to create her currywurst sauce.
Served over grilled pork sausage, the filling and cheap snack was so popular that she sold more than 10,000 currywurst every week at her stall. In 1959, Herta Heuwer patented her Chillup sauce recipe.
Currywurst sales were so good that Heuwer opened a restaurant, which she ran until 1974. Movie stars and politicians came here to eat currywurst.
Herta Heuwer, who died in 1999, never gave anyone her secret recipe for currywurst sauce. She refused to sell it to restaurant chains that wanted to commercialize it.
Today, every Berliner has a favorite currywurst stand. Everyone likes different versions of currywurst. Some like their curry wurst mild. Others prefer it scharf (spicy), with the addition of cayenne or chile pepper seeds.
Currywurst recipes vary. Some Germans use bratwurst for the currywurst sausage. Others use knockwurst.
While the red sauces all have a ketchup, tomato sauce or chili sauce and curry powder base, some cooks add Worcestershire sauce, chopped onions, paprika, mustard powder, sugar, soya sauce and even lemongrass to their currywurst sauce recipes.
Deutsches Currywurst Museum has a Spice Chamber, where you can open drawers and sniff the fragrances of the spices used to make currywurst sauce.
Other sausage museum displays explain how currywurst has become part of the German culture. Currywurst appears in German TV programs, songs, books and movies. Pictures show everyone from workers to movie stars holding currywurst.
Politicians, ranging from former US President Bill Clinton to former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, have also eaten currywurst. By tradition, every Berlin mayor candidate has a photo taken beside a currywurst stand.
Currywurst has also spread to the rest of the world. A map shows where you can buy currywurst outside Berlin, in places as diverse as New York City, Bali, Oklahoma and Bangkok.
Sausage museum displays
Deutsches Currywurst Museum features several interactive exhibits. You can enter a currywurst van or imbisswagen, and make a virtual currywurst, in a timed competition against a touch-screen computer.
You can also play a game with curry powder shakers and fridges, listen to interviews through speakers that look like currywurst sauce-filled ketchup bottles and watch the Best of the Wurst documentary film by Grace Lee.
Besides currywurst trivia and a children's currywurst trail, the sausage museum addresses the environmental impact of fast food. A display documents the convenience, production and recycling of the eco-friendly biodegradable paper serving dishes for currywurst.
The Currywurst Museum shop sells long narrow dishes for serving currywursts, as well as soft plush currywursts for cuddle toys. A t-shirt souvenir reads: "Don't worry—be Curry."
Most museum visitors leave with a craving for currywurst. The price of a currywurst at a bude or imbiss costs about 2.50 Euros. You can also find currywurst, for ten times that price, at Hotel Adlon, which offers views of Brandenburg Gate.
For twenty times the price of snack bar currywurst, Hotel Adlon serves the sausage with a glass of Champagne. (If Hotel Adlon sounds familiar, it's because it is the Berlin hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony.)
Bier's Kudamm 195, located at Kurfuerstendamm 195, also serves currywurst on china plates, with Champagne for an additional price.
Best currywurst in Berlin
There are nearly a dozen currywurstbude within easy walking distance from the Deutsches Currywurst Museum.
The best currywurst in Berlin, according to many connoisseurs, is at Konnopke's Imbiss, located under the Eberswalderstrasse S-Bahn train station at Schönhauser Allee 44a in Prenzlauerberg.
Konnopke opened in 1930, so it is the oldest currywurst restaurant in Berlin. In the 1950s, the owner of the East Berlin bude ate currywurst in West Berlin and enjoyed it so much that he started serving his version of currywurst in East Berlin, before the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Curry 36 is such a popular take-out place for currywurst, that there's usually a line-up. Located on Mehringdamm 36, in the Kreuzberg district, it's a favorite currywurst snack bar for Berlin nightclub and bar patrons.
The curry wurst kiosk in KaDeWe, the largest department store in continental Europe, is convenient for shoppers. Officially known as Kaufhaus des Westens, the Berlin store has the largest deli in Europe.
You'll find more than 1,200 types of sausage and smoked meats in the deli, as well as currywurst among the offerings of nearly three dozen food stands and restaurants in KaDeWe.
Other good places to buy curry sausage in Berlin include Curry & Kunst, which is also an art gallery, Currywurst Berlin & Friends, at Bundesallee 200 in Wilmersdorf, Fleischerei at Torstr. 116 in Berlin-Mitte, and the currywurst stand at the Friedrichstrasse train station, between East and West Berlin.
Organic and vegan currywurst
Several street food vendors and restaurants serve organic currywurst for health-conscious sausage lovers. Witty's Currybude, located at Wittenbergplatz 1, in Schöneberg, Berlin, makes sausages and currywurst sauce from natural ingredients.
Fritz & Co., a bude at Bayreutherstrasse, in Schöneberg, and Frittiersalon, in Friedrichshain, also sell organic currywurst.
Berlin even has vegan currywurst, made from tofu. Yellow Sunshine, located on Wiener Str. in Kreuzberg, and Yoyo Food World, at Gartner Str. 27 in Friedrichshain, ensure that even vegetarians can enjoy Berlin's famous sausage snack.
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