Es ist zu früh, eine Äußerung zu machen, aber …
It’s too early to make a pronouncement, but … it seems to me that there are two ubiquitous foods in Berlin, which are, together, somewhat representative of the city.
There’s the very Berlin-ish, very traditional Currywurst, which as the name indicates is a sausage (wurst) smothered in a ketchup-like substance and topped with curry powder. It has a bit of a kick. It can be served on a roll or not. I opted for “not” because I also wanted to eat its traditional accompaniment “Pommes Frites” (a French loan term for “french fries”). The fries are often served with mayonnaise. But I opted for ketchup instead. Needless to say, my first meal in Berlin was not the healthiest.
It didn’t really help that I bought these on Gendarmenmarkt (more another time … when I understand more about its past and present significance) on my first night in Germany. Not only were they overpriced (9+ Euro with my bottle of water, which seemed like a lot when it’s supposed to be the “every-man’s food”), but I was super self-conscious about ordering wrong. I also didn’t understand some of the questions asked of me, which would usually amount to: “With or without a roll?” and “Mayonnaise or Tomato Sauce?” Simple, but I was nervous and still getting accustomed to Berliners’ speedy speech.
Currywurst is tasty. It’s certainly not healthy, but I won’t pretend I don’t like its flavor. I’ve had it one other time since. The thing I’ve noticed, though, is that although it’s a Berlin must-have, I only ever see tourists getting it. Does that mean it’s not accurately described as the city’s main fast food? No, I doubt it. It’s probably just that I’ve been to the most touristy of places.
The food that I see many, many, many Berliners buying and eating, however, is Döner Kebabs. Brought here by the many Turkish immigrants to Germany, Döner are everywhere. In the U.S. we’d call them “Gyros,” but the flavor, “bread,” and the toppings are quite a bit different.
I’ve had several Döner already, mostly because they’re tasty, cheap, everywhere, and always include some vegetables. The most common kind is Hähnchen (chicken), cut from an upright spit. At the shop right near my house, I had this Falafel Döner (pictured on the left), which has been my favorite so far. It cost only 2,30 Euro (which is about $3.13 U.S.)! The salads (four different types, actually: one that’s just lettuce and onion, another with corn and cucumber, another that seems to be slightly pickled cabbage, and another with more tomatoes) and the sauce, piled in the freshly grilled flatbread, were very filling even with only three small falafels (chickpea patties) in the mix.
This is a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dish, but it’s everywhere here. Berliners seem to like it even more than their own cuisine. And, as my time in Berlin has already taught me, it’s just one of the traditions of immigrants or of other lands (like France or the U.S.) that has been so assimilated into German life that it’s now fully German.