Haribo is famous for their gummy bears, and they should be, because they invented them. But it goes so much farther than that! You want dinosaurs? Done. You want to eat Nemo? Don't worry, they make a clown fish gummy. You want little soda bottles that look like they're half filled with cola? Well, that's oddly specific, but strangely enough, Haribo makes that kind of gummy too. And Happy Cola is arguably the best flavor: half clear, fresh lemonade flavor, half tangy, slightly cinnamon-tasting cola flavor.
Another fairly widely known candy, but as in the cases of Haribo and college baseball teams, the game they play on the home field is completely different. German grocery stores typically boast close to 30 different varieties of Ritter Sport, ranging from a yogurt flavored filling to dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts to odd, limited run flavors like Red Wine Truffle. The glowingly yellow specimen here is similar to an American Nestle Crunch bar, but instead of rice crispies, cornflakes stud the creamy milk chocolate.
In my childhood, the Kinder Surprise was a whispered legend. Not available in the United States due to real or imagined threats of toddler asphyxiation, examples still made their inexorable way into the country and ultimately, onto the playgrounds. The Kinder Ei Maxi is just like those little nuggets of contraband, but twice as big. Made especially for Easter with a larger toy, 100 grams of double-layered white and milk chocolate, it's sure to send any preschooler you may be buying souvenirs for into conniption fits.
Because of Germany's large Turkish minority, its easy to get Turkish and Middle Eastern ingredients that can be difficult to find in the U.S. One such ingredient is most commonly known in the US as Aleppo Pepper, but in fact takes many names and forms. It ranges from bright, slightly rusty red, to dark, smoky black, with corresponding variations in flavor. Far from an ordinary ground paprika, Aleppo Pepper has a flaky, slightly oily texture with a salty, almost raisin-like taste, and just a hint of heat. Try it on fish and salads.
Cured meat products have an important place in Mediterranean cuisine, so it should come as no surprise that, despite the ban on pork, Turkish kitchens have their own variations on the theme. But the king of Turkish cured meats is Pastirma (trivia: the word pastrami has the same root word, arriving circuitously through Yiddish). The air-dried and cured beef is covered in a thick layer of spices—usually fenugreek, garlic, hot paprika, and cumin. Great for breakfast with fried eggs and pita bread.
In the U.S., pork belly has been enjoying its time in the spotlight, showing up on high class menus and in farmers' markets. The Germans, on the other hand, have never stopped eating the stuff in the first place. Take the unassuming Bauchspeck, a thick slab of skin-on pork belly, smoked and vacuum packed, so it doesn't even have to be refrigerated. Perfect for soups, cooked greens, or even standing on its own as an entree.
Gotta round out the Germany list with a sausage! Knacker is short for Knackwurst, named after the snapping sound the tight skins make when you bite them (knack!). Often eaten cold, they're a simple on-the-go snack, conceptually similar to a Slim Jim except, like, not gross, you know?
Yep, Löwensenf comes in toothpaste tubes. Aside from the obvious possibilities for hilarious pranks on your roommates, it's also a great spicy mustard with a sharp, nasal horseradish bite to it. Put it on a bratwurst!
In the US, Heinz ketchup is king, widely regarded as an untouchable ingredient; more a pure substance than something that can be modified and built upon. Not so in Germany, and the best thing that's come out of this atmosphere of condiment experimentation and sauce freedom, is curry ketchup. It's inspired by but not exactly the same as the sauce that accompanies Berlin's famous currywursts. The clovey, turmeric-laden sweetness it imparts goes perfectly with scrambled eggs or french fries.
For me, every trip to the German supermarket ends with a few moments of abject panic. I pay the cashier, take my change, and somehow the next customer's groceries are already bumping into mine at the end of the counter. There's not enough room! As I shove coins, bills, and groceries into random pockets, the cashier rolls her eyes and sighs, indicating the canvas tote bags hanging next to the register. I know I've failed, but next time, just maybe, I'll be ready.