How the Most Famous Street Food in Berlin Arrived From England (and the U.S. and India)

Currywurst is available on practically every block in Berlin. But, this seemingly quintessential German food only dates to Allied occupation of the city.

Vegan Currywurst from Curry at the Wall, Berlin (photo: Brent Petersen)

With a name like Currywurst, you’d think this was a traditional German dish. But, it’s not. Unlike other Wursts, (Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Liverwurst) Currywurst is a recent addition to the cuisine of Germany.

The Invention of Currywurst

After World War II, Germany lay in ruins. Berlin was divvied up into sections, occupied by the victorious Russian, American, French, and British armies.

Herta Heuwer, a local Berliner, was selling food from a kiosk in West Berlin to the hungry construction workers who were rebuilding the city. She noticed the British soldiers carrying around items like curry powder and Worcestershire sauce. Curry powder’s popularity, of course, came from the British occupation of India.

American soldiers were partial to ketchup (an American invention) on their French fries.

So, Ms. Heuwer began experimenting. She hit upon the idea of mixing ketchup, Curry powder, and Worcestershire sauce which she used to top sausages. She called her sauce Chillip and the condiment took off!

Today, it seems like there are Currywurst stands on every block in Berlin. An order of Currywurst and fries is cheap, fast, and filling, so you’ll see lines of hungry office workers at Currywurst stands during lunch hour. And, drunken revelers will get their fix after the bars and clubs close. In fact, Currywurst is so popular that a plaque was placed at the corner of Kant and Kaiser Friedrich Streets to commemorate where Herta Heuwer’s food stall was located.

Where to get Currywurst in Berlin

If you want to try Currywurst for yourself, it’s not hard to find. My favorite place is Curry at the Wall. It’s a few blocks from Checkpoint Charlie and the vegetarian Currywurst is terrific.

Mural at Curry 61 (image: cnalifestyle.channelnewsasia.com)

Curry 61 is also very good, but their main attraction is the hilarious and kitschy mural featuring Cold War era politicians. Ten kilometers south of the Berlin’s center is Krasselt’s Imbiss, where you’ll get an excellent Currywurst topped with homemade sauce (a secret recipe!). Since the location is away from the tourist areas of Berlin, you’ll be dining with locals. Still, expect lines, especially at lunchtime.

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