London Street Foodie On Tour: Berlin street food part II (smoked fish in a market hall and spätzle at a street food party)
After last week’s taster of Berlin street food, here is the second and final instalment on what we discovered on a recent weekend trip there.
Imagine an undercover hanger a little like the one at Borough Market. Then take out the crowds and minus a few of the trade stands. This is Kreuzberg’s Markthalle Neun. For many years it stood empty (it was built in 1891, was blackened out during the Second World War and more recently used for discount markets). When three years ago it was finally purchased from the council by a humongous supermarket chain, a 500-strong group of angry neighbours bandied together deciding to bring the market back to life in their own way. After a mass sit-in, the City agreed to sell it to whoever had the most original concept that would fit into the local culture.
Now, Thursday night is Berlin street food night (a selection of amateurs and semi-pros hoping to open a restaurant some day), and Friday and Saturday it runs as a regular market, with fresh, organic produce (the best of the best), small independent food traders selling condiments, chocolate, and some hot food, and more.
On our visit, we sample and learn about raw cocoa beans from BonVodou, where the owner has also sold out of all his chocolate bars. Next we have a glass of a light brew called Thirsty Lady from the Heiden Peters microbrewery and finally we end up at Glut + Späne, a stall selling smoked fish and fish pots.
The salmon is pulled out of the smoker and for around 100g it comes to 3.93 euros. It is delicate, the flakes fall apart without much effort, and the lovely smokiness coats our mouths. It’s my favourite thing so far.
And finally to Bite Club in Mitte, a sort of sunny street food party where Berlin street food vans and stalls set up outside a giant shipping container (obv, we’re in Berlin, and this one also doubles up as a club and a bar and a shop and god knows what else), trade to music, and everyone settles into food and drink whilst sitting on picnic tables in the middle. According to founders Tommy Tannock and Miranda Zahediah it’s got the “party vibes of a Brooklyn food fair and the excitement of an Asian night market.”
Here I recognised a few London street food favourites like Venezuelan arepas, great looking pizza in a van (from Emus Pizza), great looking burgers also from a van (Jolesch-Schnitzel) and tacos from a stall called Taco Queen, as well as some Sicilian delicacies. Outside is an ice cream sandwich cart run by two Americans.
But Amy and I were on these search for something traditionally German – at which point I spotted a sign for spätzle (I’d once had them in the mountains and have wanted some ever since) and zoomed in.
Heisser Hobel is a trailer named after the grater used to make spätzle – for the uninitiated this is sort of like a Bavarian version of Mac ‘n’ cheese whereby floury noodles are pushed through the ‘grater’ to separate them into small pieces, which are then boiled in water, fried in butter, then tossed in Bavarian cheese, chives, fried onions and black pepper.
On Thursdays Heisser Hobel trades at MarktHalle Neun and elsewhere on the other four days- to do 6 days (ie “like a restaurant”) would be too much, say its co-founder Florian.
“I grew up in a restaurant so I know what it’s like. I prefer this.” Now his parents have a dairy business which is where the lovely cheese comes fom and they get through around 50-60kg every day.
As he began dishing out the spätzle (which even on this stupendously hot day was the best thing we had all weekend: gooey, shareable, comforting, like a thick gnocchi bake) I said: “you should enter the British Street Food Awards which have opened up to Europe”. He smiled, paused, and then held up a certificate. It read: “Best Overseas Trader at British Street Food Awards 2013.”
Oh I’m so behind the curve.
Next week: the low-down on west London’s new street food night market in Kensington.
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