On an idyllic summer evening, satisfying hunger pangs while strolling down a city street, at a snow covered Weihnachtsmarkt, or during any month and on any occasion, Currywurst has enjoyed cult status as a German fast food snack for more than 60 years. Over 800,000,000 are eaten every year and an estimated 70,000,000 are consumed in what, according to a sometimes disputed Currywurst legend, is its birthplace, Germany's capital Berlin.
Herta Heuwer, a shop assistant at the 'KaDeWe' Berlin's biggest store, was one of the many Truemmerfrauen, 'rubble' women, who throughout Germany used little more than basic tools and their hands to clear away wreckage left behind by war.
In her Charlottenburg kitchen Herta used typically British cookery ingredients she had been given from the armed services NAAFI, (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes and Britain's equivalent of the PX, BX and NEX), to create a recipe for the first Currywurst. In 1949 Charlottenburg was a part of Berlin's post war British military sector.
Through trial and error she turned Worcestershire sauce, spices and ketchup into a mixture that, when blended with cooked tomatoes and onions, became a warm sauce for covering deep fried sliced Knackwurst (Knockwurst). A touch of the colorful and exotic combined with the familiar that brightened up a life where all meals were influenced by post war rationing.
Herta then bought a stall on the corner of Charlottenburg's Kant and Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse, a commemorative plaque marks the spot, and from September 4, 1949 offered a Currywurst for 60 pfennig, at the time about 50 US cents and 6 UK pennies, to everyone from construction workers rebuilding the devastated city to passersby.
Currywurst became so popular that soon she was serving 10,000 a week so had to employ staff, and before long this new snack food was attracting celebrities of one type or another.
Herta had patented her recipe under the name "Chillup" at the Muenchner Patentamt, but kept the twelve spices and ingredients a secret that she took with her when she died in 1999, although thousands of copy cat Currywurst providers appeared throughout Germany.
A German snack food had become part of its culture.
The iconic currywurst appears and is used as a prop in TV programs, Herbert Groenemeyer a popular German actor and singer had a huge 'Top Ten' hit singing in praise of a currywurst, while many books and films, covering an entire range from cold war spy stories to present day romances, somehow manage to include one, or more, in the proceedings.
While being photographed holding or eating a currywurst is one aim almost everyone from tourists and film stars to US Presidents and German chancellors seem to share in common.
There is even a Disneyesque Currywurst Museum alongside the monument to Checkpoint Charlie.
For non-German nationals in the days of a Berlin Wall, and divided Germany, Checkpoint Charlie was the border crossing point into an East Berlin where 'currywurst' were also enjoyed.
Although unlike in the West the sausage had no casing in the East, so it was a Currywurst ohne Darm as for whatever reason at the time it seems there were none available on that side of the wall. And this remains the most popular way of serving them there.
Now Currywurst are found everywhere. As take out food served on Currywurstschale, traditional recyclable paper or pottery dishes from 'Currywurstbude', (currywurst stands), or 'Schnellimbisse', (fast food stands), in restaurants using vegetarian sausages or a standard featured on children's menus, and they cost about Euro 3.50.
Five star hotels with views of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and up market bars offer them priced at around Euro 25 each, or served together with a glass of champagne for Euro 45.
It is unlikely that any two Germans will agree as to what is a perfect 'Currywurst', and different regions also have their own idea of how it is served, although not many would think of "Currywurst und Schampus" as an ideal combination.
Nevertheless fries or bread, mustard, onions, very spicy, not so spicy, Bratwurst, a mixture of pork and beef, or Knackwurst, similar to a short fat frankfurter, are just a few of the alternatives, and for many Germans a world without Currywurst is unthinkable whichever way it is served.
However there is one thing most agree upon, although the recipe can have ketchup as a base there should be so many other ingredients that this is unrecognizable, because an authentic Currywurst is never served with ready made ketchup.
A genuine Herta Heuwer Currywurst is something I never had the opportunity to try, and even her husband had no idea as to the ingredients in the sauce, but a friend in Berlin who enjoyed them many times gave me this curry sauce recipe as being the taste that is the nearest to the original of their memories.
THE RECIPE - A tasty and nutritious Currywurst Sauce which can be used for all types of dishes
2 large red or yellow onions chopped very finely
2 400 gr cans tomatoes with juice
250 ml ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon paprika powder
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon oil
Warm oil over medium heat
Put onions in pan and cook over medium heat until soft, 8 to 10 minutes
Add curry powder, paprika powder, chilli powder and continue to cook while stirring, for one to two minutes
Add tomatoes and juice to pan and crush thoroughly, stir through
Stirring add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste
Bring to boil and lower to simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened. 20-25 minutes.
Puree mixture in blender and strain through a sieve.
Makes at least 500 ml of sauce.
Grill sausages, which can also be the vegetarian tofu based variety, slice and cover with warm sauce.
To the sauce covered sausage add additional Paprika powder, Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Curry Powder, Mustard or finely chopped onion to taste.
Serve with fries, and if serving in a bun put in place after slicing.
And Guten Appetit!
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Illustrations: Plakette Herta Heuwer, on the corner of Kant and Kaiser Friedrich Strass in Berlin Charlottenurg, where Herta Heuwer is said to have invented the Currywurst, photographer Malud, enhanced by Rainer Zenz - via de.Wikipedia, Currywurst Berlin style on paper plate and with plastic fork, via Erasmus Blog - Curry sauce with curry powder courtesy Mettsalat.de
Of course if you would like to have your own Currywurstschale they are easily available from Amazon.de who send to the USA and many other countries.
Here are German Style Nurnberger Original Bratwurst or Curry Bratwurst from Wisconsin, and friends who have tried them said it was like being back home.