Student Life

Local Cuisine

German food

German food is arguably one of the most underrated and under-appreciated of all world cuisines. With an open mind and some curiosity, you'll see that German cuisine offers more than just cooked potatoes.

Food in Hamburg

Given Hamburg’s proximity to the North and Baltic Seas as well as its proud maritime traditions, it is only natural that fish is a staple in the Hanseatic city. Whether the ubiquitous Fischbrötchen, a fried or pickled fish sandwich, Matjes, a northern style pickled herring or Labskaus, a hearty sailors’ hash consisting of preserved ingredients suitable for long sea voyages without refrigeration like potatoes, corned beef, salt-cured herring, fried eggs and pickled beets, fish is a staple on Hamburg tables.

Seasonal specialties

German cuisine also celebrates seasonal produce with traditional dishes that are prevalent during particular times of the year. Grünkohl, for example, which literally translates as ‘green cabbage,’ is better known in English as kale. Grünkohl is abundant in the markets from late October through January and is usually simmered for several hours with a German sausage called Pinkel. It is a hearty and warming dish perfect for the late fall and early winter months. White asparagus or Spargel has its own season, referred to as Spargelzeit. The first asparagus are usually found in the market in late March or mid April and will be served, alongside cured ham and boiled potatoes and covered in hollandaise sauce or melted butter, until mid-June.

Seasonal specialties that correlate with the holidays include Christmas favorites like Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle, two kinds of hot mulled wine, various cookies or Plätzchen and Stollen, or German fruitcake, as well as traditional meals like Gans mit Rotkohl und Klößen, or roasted goose with braised red cabbage and dumplings.

Regional dishes

Every region in Germany has its own specialties. While it would make sense that Hamburg specializes in Hamburgers, and while some accounts do claim that the beef patty has origins in the city, burgers, originally known as Rundstück, are not as prevalent as one might think. In the southern region of Baden-Württemberg, specialties include a cheesy egg noodle dish called Spätzle. Bavarians love their Weißwurst, a white sausage with Süßer Senf, or sweet mustard, for breakfast. In Frankfurt and the state of Hessen, Grüne Soße, a creamy sauce made with seven different herbs covers hard-boiled eggs and vegetables; and in Berlin, people line up to eat Currywurst. Berlin even has a museum dedicated to these hot dogs covered in spicy ketchup. The fast food of choice is the Döner Kebab, introduced by Turkish immigrants and now ubiquitous throughout Germany.

International Cuisines

In addition to a wealth of regional German dishes, Germany - and especially a large city like Hamburg - is home to many immigrant communities who brought their local dishes with them. Hamburg offers a wide range of different restaurants that are waiting to be explored - either with classmates or with an organized tour.

Labskaus (uckyo/Adobe Stock)
Spargel or white asparagus (HLPhoto/fotolia)
Goose, a traditional Christmas dish (Alexander Raths/fotolia)
Weisswurst and pretzels (karepa/fotolia)
Currywurst (karepa/fotolia)
Döner (Christian Jung/fotolia)