The good thing about edible souvenirs: Often a small ingredient is enough to conjure up exactly the taste on the palate that you want to think back to. The ketchup from "Curry 36", the most famous currywurst stand in Berlin, can help to keep the memory of the taste of the treat alive. With a bit of luck, the memory of waiting will fade.
The name "Curry 36" refers to the house number at Kreuzberger Mehringdamm 36. Until 1980 the snack bar was called "Wurstmaxe" and was located at the entrance of the building. This stand was then taken over by the couple Vera and Lutz Stenschke. A newspaper advertisement brought the then car dealer Stenschke to this bombshell business idea.
He put 15,000 marks on the table, quit his job and got rich selling sausages. The story is reminiscent of the American rags-to-riches dream. A Currywurst stand is perhaps the dream of many German emigrants because they can't imagine that there are people who like sausage without sauce.
"Curry 36" is a Berlin institution and, with four locations, including one at the main train station, is one of the top addresses for currywurst worldwide. The offer is the same everywhere: there is normal currywurst with and without casing, there is organic currywurst with and without casing and a vegan variant, naturally without casing, made from meat substitutes.
At Mehringdamm and at Bahnhof Zoo they are open until five in the morning. That makes for a diverse audience. Currywurst is considered the culinary landmark of Berlin and stands for German food culture. Strictly speaking, it is a fried or boiled sausage 22 centimeters long, which – with or without casing, in one piece or sliced – is dipped in a tomato and curry powder sauce.
Around 800 million pieces are said to be eaten in Germany every year. Curry is not a spice in the classic sense, but a mixture of different spices. This fact alone is one reason why the currywurst never tastes the same anywhere else.
It is assumed that the currywurst was invented in Berlin. It was the Charlottenburg snack bar owner Herta Heuwer who first offered bratwurst with a spicy sauce in 1949 in her booth on the corner of Kantstrasse and Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse. Herta Heuwer was a classic rubble woman who helped rebuild Berlin with her own hands after the Second World War.
They were inspired by the Americans stationed in Berlin with their fondness for ketchup. That's probably why Heuwer called their sauce "Chillup". At the time, the Kraft group tried to find their recipe, but Heuwer didn't give it away.
A real star among the dishes at German snack bars is celebrating its 70th anniversary. As one of the most popular meals in Germany, it is on everyone's lips. We say Happy Birthday and Bon appetit!
Source: WELT/Fanny Justen
However, cultural historian Petra Foede, author of a book on culinary legends, doubts this story. According to her, several recipes have been mixed together in the currywurst, and the first sausage was sold in Hamburg as early as 1947.
Nobody in Berlin seems to care. There has been a commemorative plaque for Herta Heuwer at Kantstraße 101 in Charlottenburg since 2003, and a commemorative coin since 2019.
The writer Uwe Timm dedicated a monument to women like Heuwer in his 1993 novel "The Discovery of the Currywurst". In his opinion, the intrepid rubble women shaped the post-war period.
However, the biggest and most famous fan of "Curry 36" seems to be the American actor Tom Hanks. He quotes him from 2016: “I would like someone to give me an apartment in Berlin. Preferably within walking distance to 'Curry 36'.” Hanks shares this wish with many others.