#10: Ketwurst

To mark 30 years of German reunification, we're taking you on a linguistic journey through 30 key German words and phrases that charted Germany's Cold War division, reunification and what happened next. Today: Ketwurst, a special kind of hot dog that lives on in Prenzlauer Berg.

It's gotta be dripping with ketchup!
It's gotta be dripping with ketchup!Berliner Zeitung

Berlin-A few metres from Schönhauser Allee station, next to the taxi stand in Dänenstraße, stands a small building with a rainbow coloured sign: Alain' Snack, an Imbissbude that’s keeping an East German culinary tradition alive - the Ketwurst.

As that neologism suggests, this specifically East German fast food consists of a dependable combo: ketchup and sausage. The particular innovation of the Ketwurst, however, was dreamt up by researchers at the state run food research centre in the 1970s, the Rationalisierungs- und Forschungszentrums Gaststätten.

What makes this hotdog special is the fact that the sausage (ideally a Bockwurst) is dipped in ketchup and then inserted into a hotdog bun that's had a hole poked into it, rather than placed into one that’s sliced open. While it basically tastes like a hot dog, the resulting mouthfeel is just, shall we say, different.

Sadly, the “GDR hot dog” which requires a special bun-poking device is no longer served in the rotating TV tower restaurant – as it was back in the day. These days they’re selling vegan burgers and bulgur salad up there.

Alain Snack in Schönhauser Allee.
Alain Snack in Schönhauser Allee.Photo: Fridolin Freudenfett, under CC BY-SA 4.0
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Haute cuisine it is not - and yet it took Alain, a Frenchman, to keep this East German hot dog alive in Prenzlauer Berg. You'll find Ketwurst at food trucks at fairs around eastern Germany, but Alain's is one of the few permanent locations that we know of that makes the dish.

For you foodies out there: here's a video on how to prepare Ketwurst at home - including a recipe on how to make the ideal ketchup which involves cream and cola. Yum.

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