Food is a big part of German culture. The well-known German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel even centers on food with bread crumbs and a house made of gingerbread.
German food tends to be hearty with hefty meat portions, but the main staples of German cuisine are sausage, sauerkraut and beer.
“If you were to visit Germany, you would find over 1,500 types of sausages throughout the country,” said Philipp Sitter, co-owner of King’s Bierhaus, 2044 E. T.C. Jester Blvd. “Historically, the sausage was made to preserve meat as much as possible. Over time, the sausage became a representation of Germany’s food culture.”
King’s Bierhaus is one of two area restaurants that specialize in German cuisine, with the other being Heights Bier Garten at 1433 N. Shepherd Dr. Both bring the taste of Germany to Houston.
Bratwurst, which is grilled sausage, is one of the most popular street foods in Germany. It’s usually made with pork or veal and seasoned with ginger, nutmeg, coriander or caraway. Knockwurst, which is boiled sausage, is made from finely ground beef or pork. Weisswurst, which is bacon sausage, is a Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon. It’s prepared by cooking in hot water, but not boiling water or it would split the casing.
Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage usually fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. The acid gives the sauerkraut a distinctive sour taste. Sauerkraut has a long shelf life and is often served alongside meat dishes.
The third side of German cuisine, beer, was actually created by monastery monks in Germany. Sitter said the world’s oldest breweries can be found in Germany, with the oldest being Weihenstephaner, which was founded in 1040 in Freising.
“German beer focuses on traditional ways of brewing,” Sitter said. “Reinheitsgebot is a 500-plus-year-old law designed to preserve the purity of German beer. It’s practiced throughout the country and helps keep their beer’s authentic flavor.”
Under this law, the only ingredients allowed in the production of beer is water, barley and hops.
While sausage, sauerkraut and beer are staples of German cuisine, there’s much more to it.
Sitter also mentioned the traditional German dishes Schweinshaxe and Spaetzle.
Schweinshaxe, or pork shank, is sometimes the size of a human head.
“(Making schweinshaxe) is a whole day cooking process, starting with a weekly Himalayan salt brine, then cooking the entire shank in fresh veggie stock and finishing it off in the oven for the awesome crispy skin,” Sitter said.
Spaetzle, or egg noodles, is handmade with flour, eggs, salt and a small amount of fizzy water. Traditionally, the dish is made by scraping thin strips of dough off a chopping board into boiling water.