Deutsches Currywurst Museum
by James Glazebrook
I can’t believe we’ve never talked about currywurst before! This snack of chopped up sausage covered in curry ketchup is a real taste of Berlin – and, for the record, one we really like. It may not taste much of curry, but then neither do the actual curries here; as a matter of fact, the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten in Berlin is a currywurst from a stand at Wittenbergplatz. Damn, it was scharf! Anyway, we jumped at the chance to visit the Deutsches Currywurst Museum – and we were impressed by how much they’d made out of the humble street food.
The museum’s interactive exhibits tell of the snack’s origins, its spread across Berlin – and the whole world – before explaining what goes into a typical currywurst and letting you pretend to make your own. We found out that there are over 2,000 vendors in the German capital alone, and that their many variations on the dish include a “taxi plate”, complete with chips, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, gyros and tzatziki (but unfortunately, no info on where to buy it!).
We had a go on the virtual vendor machine and played in the faked-up currywurst van, before learning how the snack was invented. In 1949, a woman called Herta Heuwer, who owned a counter in the British sector of Berlin, started experimenting with the exotic ingredients brought over from the UK. She incorporated curry powder into the recipe that she took to her grave (having burned all written records of it after her husband’s death), and the currywurst was born. Uwe Timm, author of Die Entdeckung der Currywurst, claims the dish was invented in Hamburg, but that’s another story – and one that’s also been made into a feature film and a graphic novel (on display here).
After picking up some more factoids (did you know that “curry” is a bastardisation of the Tamil word “Kari”, meaning “sauce”?), fighting with some giant play pommes, and watching an illuminating short film an American expat shot at Berlin’s currywurst stands, we sat down to our inclusive lunch. From the selection of three common variations, we struggled to pick a favourite between the bratwurst with herbs and the Berliner currywurst with skin (mit darm). Next time, mine’s a taxi plate!