When Worlds Collide: Turkish Kebab in Germany

Turkish Doner Kabab with Cabbage
Turkish Doner Kabab with Cabbage

For three years, we lived about as far east as you can go on the Turkish Mediterranean.  Beautiful, soulful place.  We grew to love the people, the culture, the carpets, the history,  and the food.  (Oh, that food. . .)  We were aware that Germany has the largest Turkish population outside of the country of Turkey, so we’ve never been surprised as travellers (and now residents) in Germany to find lots of carpet shops and kebab stands.

So why were we surprised to find that many kebab restaurants here have married Turkish kebabs with German tastes?  And who knew that kebab and tzatziki sauce could be so fabulous with red cabbage!!!   We first had this in Trier, but have repeated the discovery numerous times in towns all over the German map.  And why shouldn’t the idea spread–it is so very, very good!   Especially if the cabbage has been marinated (in what, I don’t know–just pure, unadulterated deliciousness!).

On the SeriousEats website, Steen Bjorn Hanssen offers the following insights into the popularity of Turkish food in Germany:

Döner Kebab, or just döner, is undoubtedly the most popular street food in Germany and has become part of the German culinary culture and vocabulary, much like Indian chicken tikka masala has in the UK. The döner was first introduced to the Berliner neighborhoods of Kreuzberg (known as Little Istanbul) and Neukölln in the early 1970s by Turkish immigrants invited to contribute to west Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle). It quickly spread to other (west) German urban centers and following German reunification became so popular, you’ll find a döner stand in every single German town today, even in Bavaria.

(You can read his full article at http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/02/germany-doner-kebab-street-food-meat.html)

I love the comparison of Turkish food in Germany to Indian food in England–and it rings true to my ears.  Not only was Indian food outrageously popular in England, but the quality of Indian food we ate there was unmatchable.  And, if popular myth is true, Chicken Tikka Masala (England’s most popular Indian dish) is not so much Indian as an Indian hybrid–created by chefs in the UK.  Much like our German Berliner/Turkish Kebab.

Everybody likes to put their own spin on a story–even when that story is a culinary dish.  And I’m all for it!   Let the worlds collide–and our tummies and tongues will be the happier for it.

 

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Calling All Foodies: I Need a Plum Recipe!!

DSC_0647

Our German landlord just brought us a bucket of plums from his property.  I would love to make a great plum kuchen, a tart, some jam, etc.    Any favorite recipes out there?  I’d love it if you’d share.

This morning, I’m launching into a spiced plum jam recipe:  a riff on the recipe found here  http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/17496/spiced-plum-jam.aspx.  I may fiddle with the spices and add  a dash of rum.  We’ll see.

But I will still have half a bucket of plums left–so bring on your ideas. Any suggestions welcomed, and German recipes especially welcomed.

Thanks!!

Making the Best of the Wurst

wurst

Recently, another blogger I follow took note of the Germans’ penchant for pork.  Took issue with it, really.  And, while I think taking aim at another cultures’ tastebuds is a thorny undertaking at best, I do feel a little sympathy for other people who are swine-averse in Germany.  There’s no easy way to steer clear of  the pig when in the Palatinate.

And I should know.  I am not a sausage eater.  I don’t mind the aroma, the spice, the bite of garlic or pepper–those are all fabulous…seductive, even.

Not sure I like the idea of sausage, but sausage is not really one of those things anyone should think too closely about, so that’s not the problem.

I’m just allergic to pork.  So I avoid it.  No biggie.  Up to this point in my life, there have always been lots of options.  In the South, I go to BBQ joints and order shredded chicken or beef.  I take a pass on bologna, and I feel no great loss.   However,  in the land of beer and brats, you find yourself adrift on a sea of sausage… absolutely schwimming in schwine.

The boys in my family think this is fabulous, and I won’t contradict them.  But it does make for some awkward moments for me.  I feel funny always asking what’s in a dish that I don’t recognize–it feels a little high maintenance.  And, since my German is very rudimentary, I often don’t understand the answers I get back.  So there’s a lot of just steering clear–taking the widest path around anything that might possibly contain pork.

en.wikipedia.org, weisswurst
en.wikipedia.org, weisswurst

Which knocks out a lot of things in Germany.  (I thought my Ritter chocolate bar smelled slightly bacony the other day…but I ate it anyway, and I’m still standing.)

So here’s the plan:   Germany may be a swine-fest 24/7, but it’s also a chocolate and pastry and spatzle fest, so I will not suffer (although my waistline might).   My household will savor all that Germany has to offer by the age old “Jack Spratt technique.”  What I won’t eat (pork), my husband will relish; what he will only nibble around the edges (pastries), I will greedily gobble.  You’ll recognize us if you sit nearby at a restaurant:  we’ll be the people who’ve licked our platter clean.

Guten appetit!

 

A little sampler of facts about German Wurst:

*A wurst is a German or Austrian sausage–it is not necessarily made of pork, although pork is the most frequent ingredient.

*Wurst is sold both raw and cooked; it can be sold as a sausage or as cold cuts.

*If you happen to be near New Braunfels, Texas, you can go to the Wurstfest in November.  It bills itself as “the best 10 days in sausage history”–the best of the wurst.  Or the wurst at its best.  And then, later, you can confuse people by saying, “I was once in Texas and had the best wurst.”   ?!    The Pocanos also advertise a Wurst fest, complete with Polka Bands, Bavarian dancing, Lederhosen, and hotdog races.   The wurst at its worst best wurst …whatever.   Chicago also has a three day Wurst fest.  (This begs for a windy city joke, but I’m trying to be mature.)

*Bad Durkheimer, Germany (in the Pfalz, which is part of the Rhineland-Palatinate and close to where I live) has a Wurstmarkt wine and wurst festival in September.  Part of the national Oktoberfest fervor, but with wine. (And, I’m told, the wine is served in half-liter sized glasses, like beer.  Ouch.)  The Durkheimer Wurstfest is famous for being the biggest winefest in Germany.    It bills itself as a nearly 600 year old festival.  (The flyer should read “the best 570 years in sausage history”–that would show Texas!)  

Bad Durkheimer
Bad Durkheimer

 

*Apparently, there are over 1,500 types of wurst available in Germany. It can be found on a German table at any time of day or night.  It is the subject of festival and poetry.  (Well, if Robert Burns can write a poem about Haggis, then sausage is certainly fair game!)    

* Holzhausen, Germany boasts the Deutsches Bratwurstmuseum–yes, a wurst museum– which houses documents that can date the beginning of wurst  from the year 1404.   So there you go; plan your pilgrimage now. 

 

**If this is the wurst post ever, I apologize.  Consider the subject.

I Capture the Castle: update on “Househunting in Germany”

lego castle

 

Jinkies!  We’ve just rented a Scooby Doo house!  It’s big, beautiful, and spooky looking on the outside.  It’s charmingly ivy-strewn.  (Is there a synonym for “strewn” that also implies overgrown?)  The floorboards are definitely creaky. The staircase is winding and fits just inside an exterior wall that looks like a castle turret from the outside.   The overall effect:  it looks and sounds like a little red stone castle.

Maybe this sounds awkward and gaudy, but it’s not–just a cool, old house.  It was built around 1900, and it’s a timeless beauty.  (The bathrooms, on the other hand, are most definitely dated.)

The kitchen is the size of a postage stamp (a large postage stamp, thank you), but Dorie Greenspan (she of the Bon Appetit and cookbook fame) also works in a tiny kitchen, so let’s call this chic.  Cozy and European?   Petite and inspired?  Okay, just petite.  But the dining room, my friends,  is spacious and gracious.

It’s hard to give you the full effect without a photo.  I wanted to post a photo, but my kids have reminded me that we we have a rule:  don’t go online and tell people where you live.  There will be hell to pay if I break a rule that my kids have very responsibly upheld.  So no photos for now.   But mark your calendars:  Halloween party at my house this year!  We provide the Scooby snacks.