Germany is home to a variety of cuisines, with significant differences in culinary traditions between its regions. However, the country is unified by its love of meat, bread, sausages, and beer. Though traditional meals can be high in calories, a new generation of chefs is improvising German classics to create “nouvelle” dishes. Fresh produce can be found at the many farmers’ markets and charming stores across the country and homemade breads and cheeses and locally caught fish, are usually of a high standard.
Northern German food is meant to sustain fishermen during long, cold days, and to this end, is full of starches. The hardships of life in the northern coast are reflected in the hearty and filling cuisine of this region, much of which makes use of ocean fish such as halibut or plaice, or freshwater fish such as trout. The popularity of Matjes, salted herrings with cream and onions, served with baked potatoes, has spread from the northern cities to the rest of the country. Warming stews and soups, such as Pichelsteiner Eintopf, a one-pot dish with meat, potatoes and vegetables cooked in broth for the harsh winter months, are readily available, as is potato, salad, which is served hot or cold with chopped pickle relish or onions. Potatoes, often cooked with bacon, are by far the most popular side dish in the region.
Rhineland and Southwestern Germany
This part of Germany, with its wine-growing regions along the rivers Rhine, Mosel and Neckar, is known for its superb, often French-influenced, gourmet feasts. Swabian food is rich, traditional German cuisine. Pasta and bread feature largely in a Swabian meal including Maultaschen, large pasta parcels containing meat, cheese, or vegetables served in soup or butter, or Spätzle, a type of pasta, which in Bavaria is made with beer instead of water. Swabian food is often referred to as “wet” food, since it is often drenched in sauce or melted butter. The Pfalz, a region of southwestern Germany, is famous for its Pfälzer Saumagen, sow’s stomach filled with sausage, herbs, and potatoes. The Franks, inhabitants of Franconia, part of Bavaria, produce perhaps the finest ginger bread in the country, as well as Nürnberger Rostbratwürstchen (small, spicy roast sausages), and dishes using rare types of fish, such as sheatfish.
Saxony and Thuringia
Thüringer Bratwurst, a spicy roasted sausage served with mustard, originates from this east German region, as does Sauerbraten, roast beef marinated in vinegar. Meat is not the only option, however, as Thuringian food is heavily influenced by the wide variety of vegetables grown. Asparagus, cabbage, and cauliflower dishes are also served.
Saxony is widely known for its cakes, or Stollen; there are strict require ments which must be met for a cake to be considered an authentic Dresdner Stollen, including where it is made geographically. These cakes are usually served on or around Christmas. Another cake originating in Saxony is Baumkuchen, a multi-layered, pyramid-shaped cake covered in a chocolate glaze. Thuringia is more likely to serve Bechkuchen (sheet cakes), such as Streusel-Kuchen, a German crumb cake.
Much of southeastern Germany’s cuisine is heavily influenced by Eastern Europe, as demonstrated by the goulash dishes and dumplings that regularly feature on the menu. Knödel, for example, are boiled dumplings made in a variety of ways with several types of filling, such as liver, onions, or egg; Semmelknödel are bread-based dumplings with onion and egg, and Leberknödel are liver dumplings. Bavarian food, which the world identifies with Germany, is filling and hearty; beer and pretzels, white sausages, Sauerkraut (dish made with fermented cabbage), and roast pork are fixtures of the traditional Bavarian menu. The Weisswurst (white sausage) has its origins in Munich , where several “rules” were made for its consump tion, including not eating it after midnight.