Knorr Currywurst Sauce Mix
© Denzil Green
Currywurst is a fast-food German dish consisting of sausage with curried sauce on it, sold from lunch stands called “Imbissstände.”  It is particularly popular in Berlin.
It is an inexpensive food, costing only about €2.50 ($3.20 US, 2006 prices) that is strictly a street food, as opposed to a restaurant food (though in Düsseldorf one restaurant called “Curry” has opened to sell it.) It is served in a small, rectangular paper tray with raised edges.
The exact type of sausage used, and the sauce used, can vary by vendor and city preferences.
The sausages used will be about 8 inches (20 cm) long before being cut up for serving, and about as thick as North American wieners. The actual type of sausage can be Brühwurst, Bratwurst, Bockwurst or Dampfwurst.
Bockwurst is the preferred sausage in some areas in the Ruhr, though in other areas of the Ruhr Bratwurst reigns supreme. Bratwurst, though, is never used in Berlin.
Dampfwurst sausage versions are not considered as good (because the sausage is considered to be a cheaper one.)
You can ask for your Currywurst with a sausage with skin on it (“Currywurst mit Darm”) or without skin (“Currywurst ohne Darm” or “darmlos.”) Sausages with skin will be Brühwürste, containing pork and beef; they look like Bockwurst, and are lightly cured and smoked.
Skinless sausage tend to be made of pork, pale in colour, and not cured or smoked. In East Berlin, there’s a preference for skinless sausages; in West Berlin, they prefer their Currywurst sausages with skin on.
The sausage can be cooked by boiling or grilling; skinless sausages are generally boiled (i.e. simmered); skin ones generally fried or grilled. Cuts are made in the sausage before frying or grilling so that it will puff and not explode.
Though occasionally the sausage may be served whole, generally it is cut into pieces. Fried ones tend to be sliced into pieces by hand with a knife. Boiled, skinless ones can be cut up that way, too, but most vendors have a special cutting box made of metal called a “Currywurstschneider” (“schneider” means “cutter.”) You drop the sausage into the box at the top, and pull down a handle at the side. The handle in turn pulls the blades inside, and cuts the sausage into pieces which fall out the bottom onto the waiting paper tray. You can also buy electrical Currywurstschneider, which were invented in 1963.
The sausage pieces are placed (or plopped from the machine) into their paper tray for serving, then covered with a warmed tomato-based sauce that is about the thickness of ketchup. Many say that a good Currywurst is more about the sauce, than the sausage. The sauce may be squirted on from plastic bottles, or ladled on from pots. The sauce is almost always just bought commercially — a common brand is “Hela.”
Now, comes the curry flavouring. It can be present in several ways, depending on the Currywurst vendor:
- The sauce may already flavoured with curry, either because it was bought that way or doctored up by the vendor ; OR
- the sauce is plain, with the curry-flavouring being in the actual sausage; OR
- the sauce is plain, with the vendor sprinkling curry powder on for you, either on top the sauce, or on top the sausage pieces before the sauce is applied; OR
- the sauce is plain, with the vendor providing a canister sprinkler of curry powder on the counter to let you do it yourself.
The already-flavoured sauces may include spices such as mild curry powder, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and sweet paprika.
For those who want to make Currywurst at home, Knorr makes a package Currywurst sauce mix that you add water to, and heat.
If you ask the Currywurst vendor for yours to be “scharf” (sharp), you’ll get a sprinkle of cayenne pepper on it. If you ask for it “with seeds” (“mit Körnern”) — you’ll get it with red chile and its seeds sprinkled on. You can usually also ask for a few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce, or chopped onion.
The assembled Currywurst is handed to you in its tray, with a small wooden or plastic fork, and a piece of white bread or a bread roll. You can also often get French Fries and mayonnaise on the side.
At the end of the 1900s, Currywurst started to face stiff competition from other fast street foods such as pizza and döner kebabs. But the Turks running the döner kebab stands acknowledge the popularity of Currywurst among their customers: they will sell it, even though they themselves won’t eat it because it’s pork.
A museum dedicated to Currywurst is opening in Berlin (ed.: the opening, originally scheduled for the end of 2006, has been re-scheduled for sometime in 2007.)
Currywurst started appearing in Germany in the 1950s. There is heated debate about how and where and with whom it originated.
In 1993, a writer named Uwe Timm published a book called “The Discovery of Currywurst” (Die Entdeckung der Currywurst .) In the book, he posits that it was probably invented by a woman named Lena Brücker who ran a food kiosk in Hamburg, at the end of World War II. This is often cited by some as proof that it didn’t originate in Berlin, but what such people don’t seem to have twigged onto is that not only was Timm’s book a novel, but also that there was no such woman named Lena Brücker — he made her up. She’s a fictitious character.
Berliners believe that Currywurst was created by a Berlin woman named Herta Charlotte Heuwer (30 June 1913 – 3 July 1999.) She claimed to have invented a tomato sauce with 12 curry spices, and remembered the exact date and place: 4 September 1949 at her Imbissstand in the Charlottenburg area of west Berlin, near Stuttgart Place. She said it was a rainy night, with no customers, and that she invented it out of boredom , She called the sauce “Chillup Sauce” and received German patent number 721319 for it on 15 January 1959. Her stand became very successful and eventually she had 19 people working for her to help serve the throng of customers. She used Brühwurst as the sausage, with skin. Later, Kraft tried to buy out her recipe and her patent rights, but she refused. Her tomato sauce had Worcestershire sauce in it. A memorial plaque has been erected on the site of her Imbissstand, on Kantstraße at the corner of Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße.
Currywurst was also sold in East Berlin even before the wall came down.
Currywurst was banned in the exclusive Brandenburg Gate area of Berlin at the end of 2004, owing to complaints about the smell of the sausages and curry, and the attendant noise of the customers, lodged by the nearby upscale Adlon Hotel, who said that it was disturbing guests such as Bill Clinton. There was general outrage, however, and ensuant campaigns by Currywurst fans such as Madonna and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. As a bureaucratic compromise, one stall, run by an Elke Zieschang, was allowed to re-open in June 2005. She was chosen through a tendering process, and had to fit her stall with an extractor fan to absorb the smells. As a nod to foodie political correctness, she also committed to using only organic sausages
Literature & Lore
Best of the Wurst (2004) is a documentary (23 minutes) by American film-maker Grace Lee about Currywurst in Berlin.
Currywurst is often spelt as two words in English, “Curry Wurst.”
 Imbissstand, singular. Imbissstände, plural. Imbissbude in Austria; Würstelstand in Switzerland.
 “Es war in einer regnerischen Herbstnacht des Jahres 1949, am 4. September. Es goss kleene Kinderköppe, kein Mensch war an meiner Bude. Aus Langeweile rührte ich Gewürze mit Tomatenmark zusammen. Und es schmeckte herrlich.”
Connolly, Kate. Currywurst returns to the Brandenburg Gate. The Telegraph. London. 22 June 2005.
DW staff. The Triumphant Return of the Currywurst. Deutsche Welle. 21 June 2005.
Flata, Sabine. Die Rückkehr der Currywurst. Die Welt. Berlin, Germany. 21 June 2005.