Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dining in Deutschland

Unlike in the U.S. where dining out is commonplace, Germans tend to cook a lot more at home and reserve restaurants for special occasions. As Thomas explained, dining out is considered more of a celebration than just a means to acquire of food. This explains why people linger a lot longer after eating and then request the check when they’re ready, unlike in the U.S. where waiters often rush over the bill before you’ve taken your second bite.

Maybe the fact that grocery shopping tends to be less expensive in Germany plays a role. For example, when we were in the U.S., Thomas suffered from sticker shock nearly every time we visited our local grocery store’s produce section.

And on a side note, Germans tend to use more local and seasonal fruit and vegetables when cooking. This explains why that bunch of grapes I plopped onto the scale at the veggie market checkout cost nearly €5 (about $6.75). Even the clerk was so shocked, he triple checked the price, looked at the sign, and then said (in German) something like Oh, these cost this much because they come from South Africa. He then gave me a questioning look as if to ask, Do you still want them? I never felt so guilty for indulging in fruit.

But back to the restaurant scene. Munich is a richly diverse city with tons of dining options those of us who love eating but are, say, slightly challenged in the home-cooking field. But lately I’ve been feeling a little homesick for some of my favorite foods from the States, like fried catfish, hushpuppies, dirty rice and shrimp étouffée.

So as they say, when in Rome, cook Cajun food. Or something like that.

Two grocery stores and one fruit and veggie market later, I had all of the ingredients to make my very own shrimp étouffée.

Yes, that's a cocktail shaker in the background. I needed a little liquid courage before embarking on this daunting culinary challenge...
It took about three hours (and a lot of math to convert cooking measurements...converting grams of butter into tablespoons is a two-step, cross-your-fingers process) but I finally got my étouffée. Plus, since I had to make my own Creole seasoning, I quadrupled my previously skeletal spice collection.

Here’s the final result: 

spicy shrimp étouffée with extra hot sauce
And the best part? It actually tasted good! Maybe there’s something to this cooking thing...


  1. I get totally homesick for food... it's ridiculous, but you know, the Vietnamese food here doesn't taste like the Vietnamese food in London (let alone in Vietnam). Luckily we have an Asian supermarket round the corner...

    And yes, how nice is it to be able to hang out at a table as long as you want once you've finished your food?!!

    ps I have never heard of étouffée... I am off to investigate this immediately.

  2. Do you not have US measuring spoons & cups? You MUST get some. Some places like Kaufhof even sell them over here but I usually have them sent or bring them with me from the US. Makes cooking immensely easier...I cook mostly from English recipes, but even a lot of the German ones have Ess- & Teelöffel in there so they come in very handy!

    And as for the fruit indulgence, is there any other choice? Our local market always has Flug Mangoes for €3.49 EACH. I can only laugh when I see them. I would never buy one but someone must...otherwise they wouldn't have them ALL THE TIME! :)

    Just discovered your blog, looking forward to reading more. Always love stalking other expats in Germany :) I'm from Texas

  3. yum, etouffee looks delicious! must make some since it is now crawfish season here.
    Christy Futch

  4. So you struggle with the metric system in Munich????? I struggle hard when a recipe states 1/3 cup, 2 table spoons and a tea spoon!!!! Three different measurements for one ingredient??? Nice to find your blog. I am from Munich and moved to Manassas, VA 3 weeks ago to marry my American fiance. Give all my love to my Munich

  5. @Frau Dietz - Good point about food tasting different in other places! Back home I had a lot of friends from China and I quickly learned that American Chinese food is often completely different (and usually more fattening) than what you get in China (which of course various significantly by region as well). It's just too bad my cooking doesn't taste like my grandmother's did, lol

    @Tiffany - I have the measuring spoons from the U.S., but I bought a measuring cup after I got here and it mostly shows metric. But it's good practice for my math skills. Of course, maybe I'll break down and hit up Kaufhof in the near future.

    @Christy - Yuuummmmm...wish I was there to help eat some...although I'm not much for crawfish in the shell...a little too real for me.

    @Anonymous - I have to admit metric does make a lot more sense, so I can sympathize with you there. I was traveling in Mexico with some German friends. After we crossed the border (and were in an extremely poor, dirty and desolate area when one guy noticed the speed limit sign was in kilometers. His response: "Thank god! Civilization!"

  6. I will never admit to being much of a cook. But I love to eat and I am lucky to have a spouse who loves to cook and grocery shop. Simple meals are always the best place to start and every nationality has a few easy to make things. Congrats for being so brave.

  7. Buy a scale that measures in grams and ounces. That'd be helpful. And, this website is great for looking up typical weights of things:

  8. I could relate to this post, especially the part about the conversions. Most of my cookbooks are from the U.S. and I even have to convert the temperature to see how hot the oven is supposed to be...aggh. Glad your shrimp turned out. It looks delicious!

  9. What are you drinking? It looks green...

  10. @german-gems - I completely agree! I love trying new dishes from other countries, but simple is better especially if you're still learning (like me) where to buy the ingredients.

    @Anonymous - Thanks for the link! It looks really helpful. I've bookmarked it for future reference. :)

    @Expat in Germany - The oven temperature still gets me. Plus, my oven here has all these different settings with heat coming from different places and with or without air. It's definitely a trial and error process. Let's just say I'm a glad (if only for that reason) we have no smoke alarm...but we plan to get one. So I need to figure out the oven soon! ;)

    @yozuk - The greenish-blue drink is called a hurricane. It's a very common drink in the southern U.S. It comes in a variety of colors (depends on what you mix in, e.g. curaçao vs. grenadine). Here's a link to a few good recipes if you're interested:

  11. I like the fact that Germans cook more at home. I am doing a research about the German quisine and prices in general, does anyone know if these costs are real or not?