Posts Tagged ‘Charlottenburg’

Currywurst – German Cousin of the Hot Dog

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Currywurst is a German national Schnell-Imbiss, a fast food. It is the German cousin of the American hot dog. In the beginning, Currywurst was an inexpensive, filling meal purchased from street vendors. Today, it is also available in many upscale restaurants from Germany to New York.

What is Currywurst?

Currywurst is a grilled sausage that is cut into slices (when I grew up, it was split lengthwise) and dowsed with a sauce. The secret lies in the sauce, which in essence consists of stewed tomatoes, curry, and spices. Depending on the vendor, the sauce may be flavored with sweet Indian curry, powdered mustard, hot chili, lemongrass, paprika, or chopped onions.

Currywurst success story

Made from grilled pork or beef, this quick meal originated in the bare-bones kitchen of a Berlin woman during the Berlin Blockade and Airlift of 1948/1949. Herta Heuwer was a hands-on woman. When Berlin lay in shambles at the end of World War II, Heuwer did her part by becoming a Truemmerfrau (rubble woman). She became one of the many women who are credited with putting Germany’s war-torn cities back together by separating reusable building materials from tons of useless debris so that reconstruction could begin. Herta Heuwer became a Truemmerfrau who helped to put Berlin’s district of Charlottenburg–the district I grew up in–back on its feet in 1946. A couple of years later, during the Berlin Blockade, she bartered with her British occupiers for a few spices. Condiments were largely unattainable in those days. After she had traded spirits for a little Worcester sauce and ketchup, she experimented with these spices at home and ended up with a sauce that she poured over boiled pork sausage. The dish caught on with the working class. Soon Heuwer opened a street side stand and sold Currywurst with a slice of whole grain bread on the side. Her business took off. Six years later, her sales amounted to 10,000 servings a week. After patenting her sauce under the name of “Chillup,” Heuwer opened a fast food restaurant at Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse 57 in Charlottenburg, not far from where I grew up. Ms. Heuwer never disclosed her original recipe and never sold out to mass-production food companies.

Herta Heuwer plaque installed at Kaiser-Friedrich-Str. 57 at the corner of Kantstrasse, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Herta Heuwer plaque installed at Kaiser-Friedrich-Str. 57 at the corner of Kantstrasse, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Currywurst consumption today

The Deutsche Currywurst Museum estimates that 800 million Currywursts are consumed in Germany every year, 70 million in Berlin alone. Even the Volkswagen car manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg produces 3.5 million Currywursts per year in its own butcher shop.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.