Currywurst is one of the most quintessential Berlin foods, rivaled only by döner kebab. It is available in almost every fast food place to the point where a Berlin without currywurst is hard to imagine. However, this is only a quite recent phenomenon.
The story behind the currywurst is an interesting one with all the hallmarks of a movie, and yet Hollywood has not picked up the tale… yet. It all started in 1949 in a ruined and fractured Berlin that was struggling to rebuild after World War II. Funds were low, as were most resources, but people carried on. In East Berlin, they were under the watchful eye of the SSSR, and in West Berlin under the Allied Forces.
A woman named Herta Heuwer lived in West Berlin, where she led a relatively normal life. One day, she received some food rations from an English soldier, the meager winnings consisting of some ketchup, spices, and Worcestershire sauce. Not that special on their own, but revolutionary when brought together.
Heuwer mixed the spices into a sauce and started selling it together with a boiled sausage to local construction workers. This cheap but filling and above all tasty meal sold well and the popularity of the currywurst grew. At her peak, Heuwer sold over 10,000 servings per week and she patented the sauce (which she called Chillup), so that her competitors had to pay her.
She became an incredibly successful businesswoman in her time and a famous Berliner. Though today none of her shops or stands remain, a few years after Heuwer’s death in 1999 this plaque was put in place at the site of her facility on Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße.
Know Before You Go
The plaque is on the back side of an Asian supermarket between some shrubs. Unfortunately, there is no good currywurst stand nearby!