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Currywurst: The German street food favourite returns to Volkswagen's central canteen

Currywurst, a famous fast food in Germany that features sliced sausage slathered in curry ketchup.
Currywurst, a famous fast food in Germany that features sliced sausage slathered in curry ketchup. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Amber Louise Bryce
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Currywurst has returned to Volkswagen's central canteen - but did it ever leave German peoples' hearts?

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When you think of Volkswagen, you likely think of cars - not sliced fried sausage soaked in a rich curry ketchup. 

Yet it's the latter, a fast food dish known as currywurst, that the German company has historically produced more of - and recently re-introduced to its central canteen following a ban in 2021. 

Manufactured at the company's huge Wolfsburg plant since 1973, the Volkswagen brand of currywurst has been predominantly sold at its six German factories, although can also be found at various restaurants, supermarkets and amusement parks around the country.

It's sometimes given as a gift to those that purchase a Volkswagen car across various European dealerships.

Who invented currywurst?

Roberto Pfeil/AP2009
Currywurst with chips - a common street food sight in Berlin, Germany.Roberto Pfeil/AP2009

The condiment-laden currywurst is said to have been created in 1949 by a Berlin sausage stand owner named Herta Heuwer, who reportedly obtained the magical ketchup and curry powder mixture from British soldiers stationed in Berlin. 

In 1951, Heuwer patented her special "Chillup" sauce, the exact recipe for which remains a mystery to this day as she destroyed all written records of it before her death in 1999, aged 86. 

In 2003, a commemorative plaque was dedicated to Heuwer on the corner of Kantstraße and Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße, where she had her original kiosk. The inscription reads: "Her idea is a tradition and an eternal pleasure." 

From best to wurst?

Despite its cultural legacy, recent years have not been kind to currywurst, with public opinion and government policies exhibiting a change of heart towards the saucy street food. 

A 2022 poll by Apetito, a German catering provider, found that the dish was no longer the most popular meal served at workplace cafeterias, dethroned by Spaghetti Bolognese and vegetarian pesto pasta. 

This follows the 2018 closure of the official Currywurst Museum in Berlin, which first opened in 2009 on the 60th anniversary of the dish's creation and featured the slogan: "Currywurst is more than just a sausage - it’s one of life’s experiences in Germany." 

Michael Sohn/AP2009
RIP to the 'Deutsches Currywurst Museum' (German Curry Sausages Museum) in Berlin, which closed in 2018.Michael Sohn/AP2009

Perhaps the biggest blow came in August 2021, when Volkswagen announced a ban on their traditionally pork-based product at the main Wolfsburg factory, replacing it with a vegetarian version. This move played into a larger government strategy to reduce national meat consumption, stirred by concerns over climate change, rising costs and animal welfare.

The online backlash was swift, led mostly by former German chancellor (and silly sausage) Gerhard Schröder who coined the hashtag #RettetdieCurrywurst (#SavetheCurrywurst) and made angry social media posts about currywurst being "one of the power bars of the skilled production worker."

Such responses turned out to be a lot of fuss over nothing - the ban only ever affected one canteen within the Wolfsburg factory, which has since been reversed following a survey on their workers. 

While it might no longer be Germany's favourite fast food (a 2022 YouGov poll found that 45% of those surveyed preferred a döner kebab), currywurst is still very much an icon of German cuisine. 

An estimated 800 million servings of the dish are eaten every year - 70 million of those in Berlin alone. So, whether you'd prefer a plant-based pasta or plate of sliced sausage soaked in curry powder and ketchup, rest assured that this saucy street food isn't going anywhere any time soon.

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