The bratwurst experience
After one too many imperfect sausages, a traveller from Deutschland finally finds an authentic German dish in Mumbai
It can be a rather strange experience being German and exploring Mumbai’s culinary underbelly to find authentic German dishes. For me, the biggest surprise was at my first stop on this food trail, when I took a look at the menu of Imbiss Meating Joint in Bandra. It offered a “German-style snail sausage". An irresponsible German butcher will put all sorts of things into his sausages to enhance the taste but certainly not snails. Why? Simply because he’s not French.
The waiter revealed the word snail didn’t refer to what went into the sausage but its shape. I realized the reference was to a sort of bratwurstschnecke, a type of sausage usually served grilled at children’s birthday parties. By the way, a waiter at an imbiss is a contradiction in itself because in Germany an imbiss is typically a street food stall which has a few bar tables at best but no seating—and no waiter for sure. I decided to stick with the classics and try a simple Grilled Bratwurst which came covered in a brown sauce. The bigger problem was that the sausage not only had chunks of strangely white meat but was also far too salty—just like the vegetables and the fries. And I suspect Imbiss Meating Joint uses the very same flavour-enhancing mix that a lot of German imbisses use back home. While this may give them some points for authenticity, it does little for the actual flavour.
My next stop, also in Bandra, was Mahlzeit restaurant, a tiny six-seater that promises a taste of Berlin street food. Thankfully they left the “real" out of the tag line—because a Butter Chicken Döner can’t be found on any street in Berlin. The bratwurst and currywurst are actually quite good, although a real currywurst has to be drowned in a chilli-seasoned ketchup and not decorated with it. Also, the idea of serving bratwurst with English mustard might be reason enough to show the British the door of the European Union (they’re leaving anyway? Good!). But the mildly-spiced sausage was nearly the real deal.
Eating bratwurst can be a near-religious matter in Germany. Every region claims to have the best, whether they are the storied small sausages from Nuremberg or the only slightly less famous Rostbratwurst or Roster from Thuringia. The ingredients that make up a good bratwurst are pork, salt, pepper and some herbs, so the flavour relies mainly on the quality of the meat alone.
It is a similar story with the schnitzel. The traditional Viennese schnitzel is made from veal, spiced with nothing more than salt and pepper, crumbed and fried in butter. It is served with lukewarm potato salad and a few splashes of fresh lemon juice. It’s simple, it’s heaven. Although the Viennese Schnitzel was invented in the Austrian capital, it has been a mainstay of every region where German is spoken over the last few centuries.
Looking for a taste of heaven, I ended up at Gateway Taproom in Bandra Kurla Complex. They do a Chicken Schnitzel which fulfils most of the criteria—especially served alongside the exquisite Dunkelweizen (dark wheat beer) they offer there. When the dish came, the potato salad was one or two degrees too cold and missed some vinegar, and maybe the schnitzel was deep-fried in oil instead of butter. It may even be that the panade—the crusty coat the meat is nestled in—was a little bit too crunchy and was dropping off the meat, which it is not supposed to. But all in all it was the simple dish it’s supposed to be—no additional spices, no bells and whistles, just schnitzel and potato salad. And when the smell of roasted breadcrumbs filled the air like warm regards from home, this little journey came to a happy end. I had found myself the right medicine for homesickness.
The writer is a Media Ambassadors India-Germany fellow with Lounge for two months.