Remember this time last year, when the second wave of our modern plague meant you were reluctantly canceling one Christmas plan after another (while failing to write King Lear)? Well, some Berliners channeled that desperation into comfort food magic. Seriously – these non-restaurant dishes were willed into existence by corona creativity and they’re now available for your home enjoyment. They’re some of the most craveable things I’ve eaten in ages. You may have to put in a little legwork to get them, but that’ll make the reward taste that much better.
Veggie ramen revelation: Food Technique Berlin
Last year’s lockdowns spawned not one but two ramen ghost kitchens run by Instagram food nerds. Like Nam of Kuma Ramen, German blogger, ex-business developer and Japanophile Christopher Selig, aka Food Technique Berlin, was drawn to the dish for its technical challenges: every simple-looking bowl is the product of myriad components, each of which can be endlessly tweaked and perfected. By the time he began (legally) offering his soup to the public at the end of last year, he’d spent months optimising the broths, flavour bases, noodles and toppings.
You can taste the result in his mushroom shoyu ramen, which I’ll go ahead and call the best meat-free version of the dish in Berlin right now: a dark, umami-rich dried mushroom and roasted vegetable broth flavoured with multiple types of soy sauce; chewy homemade noodles; marinated oyster mushrooms; roasted garlic oil; unorthodox yet surprisingly fitting toppings like kohlrabi confit, rocket and thyme. If you leave out the perfectly jammy boiled egg, it’s vegan.
Selig just wrapped up his first pop-up series at Kreuzberg café Akkurat, but you can still get that ramen (and a sludgy, spicy meat tantanmen that’s also very good but not quite as revelatory) in kit form to reheat, assemble and eat at home. Just message him when pre-orders open on Instagram or Homemeal, stand underneath his second-story window in Mitte and wait for the big red bucket to drop. It may seem pricey at €16 an order, but vegetarians disenchanted by the half-assed meatless options at most Berlin ramen spots really ought to try it at least once.
Neukölln pie hole: Donau101
I’m on record as a big fan of St. Bart’s gourmet pub grub, the unfussier the better (oh, those bacon sandwiches!). So I was a bit gutted that I never got the chance to try the lockdown-only pies they were selling last winter. But now, like low-rise flares and impossible-to-enforce corona restrictions, the hearty snacks have returned. In fact, a troupe of St. Bart’s affiliates helmed by former chef Mischa Smeljanski has opened an entire takeout shop dedicated to them: Donau101 at, yes, Donaustraße 101 in Neukölln.
With Home Bar on a pasty pause, Two Trick Pony’s long-teased sausage roll offshoot in limbo and all three pie-oneers from this 2015 article long shuttered, Berlin was sorely in need of a new source for savoury filled pastry, and Donau more than delivers. Even if you’re not British or Australian, you’ll find a measure of comfort in these moist, flaky and ever-so-buttery crusts (sorry, vegans), shaped by an imported British pie machine and filled with classic combos like like steak and ale, chicken and tarragon, butternut squash and chestnut or – do I have to spell it out? – cheese and onions. A fair-enough €12.50, or €15 including beer or Glühwein, gets you a full meal rounded out with mashed potatoes, peas, chicken or vegetable gravy, homemade ketchup, brown sauce and the mustardy relish known as piccalilli. Currently, you can either consume your bounty on the spot at one of a handful of outdoor tables or reheat it at home; in the future, look out for a frozen pie delivery service (and super-sized options for Christmas).
Sat-Sun afternoons, 12-16, check Instagram for updates