Tasty or disgusting? Sculptures of raw meat and other weird German foods
Hackepeter or Mett
We've all been warned by our parents not to eat raw meat, but the Germans have been doing it forever all the same. Even the EU warns against "Mett," or "Hackepeter" as it is called in some regions, a preparation of minced raw pork. Often sold on bread rolls, big plates of this are also a classic at buffets. A popular way to present the raw meat at receptions in the 1970s was shaped as a hedgehog.
Another snack considered typical of West Germany in the 1950s is Toast Hawaii, a grilled open sandwich which combines toast, ham and pineapple, topped with processed cheese and a maraschino cherry. It was popularized by German TV cook Clemens Wilmenrod. In the 1960s, a Greek-Canadian restaurant owner pushed the concept to create the Hawaiian pizza, which divides public opinion to this day.
Admittedly, Germany is not the only country to make blood sausages. But a peculiarity of the German Blutwurst is that it's used in dishes with colorful names, such as "Himmel und Erde" (Heaven and Earth), which combines it with apple sauce and mashed potatoes. Or even better is "Tote Oma" (Dead Grandma), where hot Blutwurst is smashed to bloody pieces and mixed with liverwurst and potatoes.
The name means "sow's stomach": The stomach of a pig is used as a casing for a stuffing of potatoes, carrots, pork and spices. It's a traditional dish from the Rhineland-Palatinate, the region that Helmut Kohl, German chancellor from 1982 to 1998, called home. He loved Saumagen, and it was served to many state guests, including Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
It's known as brawn in the UK and head cheese in North America, but it has nothing to do with dairy products. It's rather a terrine that's made from the meat of a pig's or calf's head, and sometimes their tongue, feet or heart — set in aspic.
Handkäs mit Musik
It's a culinary specialty from the region of Hesse with an intriguing name: "Hand cheese with music." The cheese is small, translucent and has a pungent aroma that's perhaps not to everyone's taste. Yet the raw onions and vinegar that make up the "musical" notes of the dish make it simply addictive for those who are a bit more adventurous.
This culinary specialty from the north of Germany used to be a poor person's food: leftovers — corned beef, beets, onions, boiled potatoes — are mashed together. The resulting puree is not very appetizing-looking, but at least it's partly hidden under a fried egg, served with herring and pickles. As unusual as it sounds, the dish is having a revival — Labskaus is now served in fancy restaurants.
Between looking like a snake and having blood that is poisonous to humans before it's cooked, eel is not a fish that sounds appetizing to everyone. It's nevertheless found its way as a food into different cultures — and smoked eel is one of northern Germany's specialties.
Pickled herring fillets, rolled onto a pickle: For people who hate fish, Rollmops are obviously a no-go, and not all Germans are passionate about them. However, the ready-to-eat vinegary bite remains a popular part of hangover breakfasts.
Germany perhaps doesn't beat Asia in terms of culinary experimentation, but this one is bound to irk a few people: Milbenkäse means "mite cheese." Produced exclusively in the village of Würchwitz, the cheese is left in a wooden box with cheese mites for three months. The bugs eat the rind; the digestive liquid they ooze ferments the cheese. And then the cheese is eaten — with the living mites.
Finally, a little treat to wash down the mites. These donuts are known as "Pfannkuchen" (pancakes) in Germany. Although they are generally filled with jam, you might get one filled with mustard on special occasions, such as during Carnival or New Year's Eve — it's a traditional joke.
Germany perhaps doesn't beat Asia in terms of dishes that surprise foreigners, but there are still a few that need some time getting used to — from a raw meat hedgehog to mustard donuts, here are our favorites.
The Old Low German word "Mett" was originally a general term for food. In modern English, it became the word "meat."
Even though the EU warns against eating raw meat, the party treat is actually making a comeback in some meat-lovers' circles, inspiring humorous creations such as "Kermett" the frog, "Mettallica" or "Mett Damon." There's even a very popular Facebook community called the Museum of Modern Mett.
There is arguably nothing that beats Hackepeter in terms of weird German foods, but the gallery above will introduce you to a few other unusual specialties, while the one below lists German foods that are tastier than they sound.
Kalter Hund (Cold dog)
Dogs don't usually land on plates in Germany – except for dessert. At least figuratively speaking. Known as "Kalter Hund," or cold dog, this simple no-bake dessert is made by layering butter cookies and chocolate frosting. When it cools in the fridge, the surface is said to "sweat" like a dog's nose. But the form also resembles a mine trolley, which, in old miners' speak, was also called a dog.
Falscher Hase (Mock hare)
You can throw just about anything into a meatloaf – pork, beef, onions, even an egg. When it's all cooked up, with a bit of sauce on top and a side of potatoes, there's no way of telling exactly what is in it. Nicely patted into a baking dish, it might resemble a hare's back. But, particularly in difficult times like after World War II, it most likely contained less expensive meats.
Before you start letting your imagination run wild, Muckefuck is much more banal than it sounds, and refers to coffee substitutes made from barley malt or chicory. It is said that the word derives from "mocca faux," French for "fake coffee," as it was used during the Franco-Prussian War. However, we think that the name comes from the verbal response provoked by drinking the stuff.
Bienenstich (Bee sting)
It's not known exactly why this treat – almond cake filled with vanilla pudding – is called Bee Sting. But according to one legend, the town of Linz wanted to attack the town of Andernach in the 15th century. Andernach bakers were collecting honey when the Linz soldiers approached and threw bee hives at them, forcing them to retreat. Andernach residents reportedly celebrated by baking this cake.
In the southern region of Swabia, the faithful observe Maundy Thursday and Good Friday by not eating meat. Hungry Swabians, however, came up with a way to secretly still their Easter appetites by hiding the meat inside dough. The origin of the name is unclear. Perhaps they were first eaten in Maulbronn. But we prefer the theory that they simply resemble a Maultasche, or feedbag.
Himmel un Ääd (Heaven and Earth)
Blood sausage doesn't often come to mind when thinking of heaven, but it's an crucial part of the German dish called Heaven and Earth, which also includes fried onions, mashed potatoes and apple sauce. Though blood sausage is the key ingredient, the name stems from the apples, which come from the heavens (well, very tall trees), and the potatoes from the earth. Ääd is dialect for Erde (Earth).
Armer Ritter (Poor knight)
What Americans know as French toast has a much more romantic name in German: Poor Knight. To prepare it, simply take day-old white bread, dunk it in a mixture of milk, egg, sugar and vanilla, and fry it in a pan. The dish has been around for many years and got its name during the Middle Ages, when the wealthy ate meat and the poor could only afford bread.
Halver Hahn (Halver rooster)
If you order a Halver Hahn in the Rhineland, don't expect to get anything that used to fly. Rather, it's a rye bread roll with Gouda cheese and butter, often served as a snack in local pubs. Most of the various legends behind the name have to do with acoustic misunderstandings and anecdotes of mistaken dining orders.
Beamtenstippe (Public servants' dip)
Taken from the verb "stippen" - "to dip" in Berlin dialect - a Beamtenstippe is the sauce served with dry potatoes to spiff them up a bit. Originally it was a poor man's dish, since lower-ranked public servants weren't particularly wealthy, and could include all kinds of leftovers.
Spaghettieis (Spaghetti ice cream)
Noodles in your ice cream may sound disgusting, but spaghetti ice cream is one of Germany's popular summer treats. But don't worry: No pasta is actually used. Instead, vanilla ice cream is put through a press to create long, noodle-like strands. Whipped cream, strawberry sauce (for tomato sauce), and white chocolate sprinkles (for Parmesan cheese) are dalloped on top to complete the illusion.