Sharing Love For Berliner Currywurst in Tokyo
Food is one of the easiest ways to take a peep at the core of a culture because typical dishes are made of ingredients readily available in a region. This means that traditional foods represent an area’s agricultural and trading heritage.
Currywurst, the typical Berlin food, was first made in the city after the war by Herta Heuwer. She acquired the key ingredients of the food - ketchup, curry powder, and Worcestershire sauce - from British soldiers. The snack became popular amongst workers in the Charlottenburg area who were engaged in reconstruction of the destroyed city. Its popularity expanded over the years and now it is estimated that 70 million currywursts are consumed annually in Berlin itself and 800 million in Germany. The fact that Heuwer’s 100th birthday has just been celebrated on Google Doodle also shows how popular the cheap but filling snack is nowadays.
There is a German sausage restaurant shop named König in Kichijōji, Tokyo. The area has been chosen as the best place to live in Tokyo for 9 years running thanks to its accessibility, various kinds of restaurants and shops, and the greenery of Inokashira-park along with its zoo. König, located close to the gate of the park, on a street which is full of stylish international shops and restaurants, offers currywurst to Tokyoites.
The owner, Chiyu Shimazaki, a SÜFFA (the German trade fair for the meat industry) prize winner studied the secrets of German ham and sausage in Wetzlar when he was 21 years old. Born the son of a butcher, he wanted to start something new and meat-related. German ham and sausages inspired him to open a German ham and sausage shop.
König‘s Currywurst strictly follows the German recipe without any Japanese modifications: chopped, with the skin, covered in original curry sauce and homemade ketchup, topped off with curry powder. Once you have a bite, a palatable sweetness with the smell of curry fills your mouth and a slightly sour flavour from the ketchup follows it. Even those who are not huge fans of curry can enjoy currywurst as it does not have too strong a curry smell and the well-balanced flavours of the spices and tomato, the soft sweetness and saltiness of sausages stimulate your appetite. However, they are still revising their recipe, aiming for the best balance of sweetness and sourness – that’s the meister’s spirit. The main consumer is young people up to their 30s and those who used to live in Germany. Interestingly enough, due to variations of currywurst in its home country, some say it’s different from what they know, and some remember good experiences from the familiar taste.
These three customers dropped by the shop on the way to Inokashira-park to enjoy wursts and German beer. When a wurst served, it made him excited enough to say “Here comes happiness” and they were clearly enjoying taking pictures of the food.
The restaurant is König’s 2nd branch, which opened in 1995. The owner opened the restaurant in Kichijōji to make wursts easier to get and for customers to enjoy while relaxing in the park, just as German people do.
Adding to the best taste, König has been aimimg to produce natural healthy ham and sausages. The owner believes that food nourishes not only our body but also our hearts. A common way to cheer up a depressed friend or to make up with your partner is to have a meal together and that is because you know positive feelings come when we have delicious food. As they say, you are what you eat – good food leads you to good things.
Chiyu Shimazaki, the owner, thinks Tokyo, as well as Berlin, is one of the most cutting edge cities in the world, and they are similar since their old traditions remain, yet they are both very modern and still growing. “Come and feel it to see what Berlin is like from outside by comparing the similarities and differences”, he says.
Pause and give more than a passing thought to global cities with Berlin’s specialty and German beer in Tokyo.
From and lives in Tokyo. An English – Japanese interpreter/translator. Interested in international affairs and studied international relations in UK. Loves travel and photography.