Monday, 9 September 2013

Spice it up! Finding the Essentials of Indian Cuisine in Berlin

A photo of one of my hauls after a visit to TS Food Traders (see below)
I love curries, but somehow I have not managed to find an Indian restaurant in Berlin that quite hits the spot. Many good ones, but none with the authentic Anglo-Indian style that you get from a hundred years of the Rajh, or from the Punjabi/Bangladeshi immigrants to Britain who set up restaurants there in the 60's and 70's and thereby set the national taste for curries.

Berlin Indian curries are either too bland and tailored to the German palate, or totally authentic but more of a southern Tamil Nadu or Kerala style, whereas us Brits are used to northern Indian cuisine.

There's only one thing to do, and that's make your own!

Making your own isn't too difficult if you have a palate tuned to your expectations and the basic skills to match. But you also need the spices to build the depth of flavours, and that might seem difficult if you are depending on your local Rewe/Lidl/Netto/Kaisers etc. Just getting fresh coriander leaf is almost impossible from a German Supermarkt, and if you do you have to pay an arm and a leg. Similarly the small sachets of spices they sell are over-priced, and not often very fresh.

Your first point-of-call are the numerous Asia Markt stores around Berlin. Here you can usually get the most common spices, at a decent price. Some even have the Patak's range of curry pastes and pickles. One of my favorites (because it is convenient and has a good range - not because I am on commission) is on Kopenhagener Straße, just off of Schönhauser Allee (Netto on the corner). They often have good quality panir cheese and fresh curry leaves in the chill cabinet, as well as a good range of spices.

There are also a couple of wholesalers that sell direct to the Indian restaurants, but also have attached shops for the public. One of the largest is Punjab Food Traders on Tromsöer Straße, near Osloer Straße U-Bahn. A smaller (though friendlier) one is TS Food Traders on Stromstraße near Turmstraße U-Bahn: though it takes a bit of finding, they are often good for fresh okra, as well as cans of Idris ginger beer and reasonably-priced digestive biscuits. A word of warning though, don't expect Kaiser-style displays and lighting - it is all a bit basic.

Finally, don't overlook the Turkish supermarkets. They always have bunches of cheap, fresh coriander and flat-leafed parsley, as well as other essential fresh ingredients like chilli-peppers and spinach that don't make it into regular German supermarkets. Plus they have a good selection of dried and powdered spices, though they are often labelled in Turkish. One of my favorites is Eurogida, again on Turmstraße but with 12x outlets in Berlin; the most convenient store to me is on Badstraße near S- and U-Bahn Gesundbrunnen. Always busy, always lots of other (non-Indian) culinary distractions (many diverse sorts of olives, halva, haloumi, and stuffed vine-leaves). And if you want further fresh produce, there are no end of Turkish shops and stalls to be found in Neuköln and Kreuzberg. In particular, check out the wonderfully colourful and aromatic (but also bustling) Turkish market on Maybachufer near Kottbusser Tor and Schönleinstr. U-Bahns, Tuesdays and Fridays.

So that you can identify some basic Indian culinary spices and staples that might be packaged in different languages, here is a cut-out-and-keep guide to their English/German/Hindi/Turkish names:

English German Hindi Turkish
almond Mandel badaam badem
aniseed Anis suwa or shopa anason tohumu
asafetida Asafoetida hing şeytantersi
aubergine Aubergine baingan patlıcan
bay leaf Lorbeerblatt tej patta defne yaprağı
black pepper schwarzer Pfeffer kala mirch karabiber
black mustard seeds schwarze Senfkörner rai siyah hardal tohumu
broccoli Brokkoli hari gobhi brokoli
cardamom Kardamom elaichi kakule
cauliflower Blumenkohl gobhi karnabahar
chickpea Kichererbsen besan or chana dal nohut
chili pepper Chilischote lal mirch (red) hari mirch (green) kırmızı biber or dövme biber
cinnamon Zimt dalchini tarçın
cloves Gewürznelken laung karanfil
coriander or cilantro Koriander dhania kişniş
cumin Kreuzkümmel jeera kimyon
curry leaves Curryblätter karhi patta or neem köri yaprakları
fennel seeds Fenchelsamen saunf rezene tohumu
fenugreek seeds Bockshornklee methi çemen otu
garlic Knoblauch Lahsun sarımsak
ginger Ingwer adrak (fresh) or sonth (powder) zendefil
lemon Zitrone nimbu limon
mint Minze podina nane
nigella seeds Nigellasamen kalonji çörek otu
nutmeg Muskatnuss jaiphal muskat or küçük hindistan cevizi
okra Okra bhindi bamya
peas Erbsen hari matar bezelye
pomegranate seeds Granatapfelkernen anardana nar taneleri
poppy seeds Mohn khus khus haşhaş tohumu
potato Kartoffel aloo patates
rice Reis chaval pirinç
saffron Safran kesar safran
sesame seeds Sesam til susam
spinach Spinat palak or sag or sak ıspanak
sweet or bell pepper (capsicum) Paprika shimla mirch or peeli mirchi (yellow pepper) paprika or pulbiber
sweet potato Süßkartoffel shakarkand tatlı patates
tamarind Tamarinde imli demirhindi
tomatoes Tomaten tamatar domates
turmeric Kurkuma haldi zerdeçal

I hope that has inspired you to seek out new tastes. Guten appetit!


  1. I think that the best and the cheapest asian shop in berlin is Vihn Loi which is located at winterberg platz and two other places. They have a good variety of fresh asian spices.

    Indisches Restaurant Deutschland

  2. Thanks for the tip Julia. I shall be sure to check it out!


I would be delighted if you wish to leave a comment!
Comments are moderated so there might be a delay before they appear on my blog.