Eating / Groceries / Travel

Something Korean in My Berlin Kitchen – A Conversation with Luisa Weiss

My sister gave me Luisa Weiss’ delightful memoir cum cookbook, My Berlin Kitchen for my birthday shortly after it was released last September, and I read it with great interest on MANY different levels: as a fellow expat in Germany, because I love Berlin, for the recipes, and to read all about Luisa Weiss’s romantic love story. I couldn’t put it down! and I enjoyed reading about the transformation of Berlin as the backdrop of her story. It was a surprise to also observe the similarities between my own expat story and Luisa’s: Luisa left behind a stable career to move (back) to Germany in her early 30s as did I. She also met the love of her life when she was a new adult, endures a great deal of heartache and pain not quite ready for the intensity of such a relationship, and [SPOILER ALERT] and ends up marrying him in a romantic twist of fate about a decade later. Best of all, this lady loves food and writes all about it.

My bedside copy of My Berlin Kitchen.

My bedside copy of My Berlin Kitchen.

I’m really excited to share a snippet of a fun conversation I had with Luisa. I interviewed her last week on behalf of the expat blog German Way for her advice for the expat in Germany and the expat family. It was natural, of course, for our conversation to veer to the realm of food. In her book, she really brought out the best in German cuisine, a cause dear to my own heart, highlighting so many of my favorite aspects: Kaffee und Kuchen (the lovely tradition of having coffee and cake in the afternoon), Erbsensuppe mit Wuerstchen (split pea soup with sausages) – my husband’s favorite, pickled herring with potatoes and beets (that’s not so native in these Swabian parts, but I love this sort of northern German meal). She has several other spot-on references and recipes, and I could add a number of my own favorites to the list, but we’re here to talk about K Food today. I was excited to read in her book a mention of gochujang. (By the way, I agree with her observation that Germans are starting to prefer the heat in their food!) But this was one of many references that made me think that Luisa and I spoke the same language.

In addition to being brave enough to purchase a tub of gochujang, I knew from Luisa’s blog that she sometimes shopped at her local Korean grocery store. (Apparently, Luisa’s father is also a big fan of Korean food!) Lucky girl lives near the closest thing that a German city can call Chinatown, Kantstrasse in Berlin’s Charlottenburg. Luisa knew that Berlin has one of the largest Korean populations in Germany, most of whom came over during the Gastarbeiter wave of the 70s.

Here are Luisa’s thoughts on the lay of the land from the Korean food perspective in Berlin:

  • One of the bigger Korean grocery stores where she sometimes shops is on the Bundesallee called Silla. Apparently, they even have a lunch counter, just as they would have a food court on a larger scale at Korean grocery stores in the States. Luisa recommends the bibimbap here. While they don’t have a large section of fresh produce, you can get fresh bean sprouts and fresh tofu.
  • She also told me about the small hole in the wall grocery store close to her house. Unfortunately, the sign is in Hangeul (Korean language), so she doesn’t know the name. I’m going to ask her for a photo of the storefront though so I can add it here later. The shop is run by a sweet, older Korean couple and Luisa purchases her Asian pantry staples here such as her rice, soy sauce and mirin. She recently also invested in her Cuckoo rice cooker here agreeing with me that it is indeed a life-saving device. The only fresh produce that you can get there though are Fuji apples.
  • There is a large Vietnamese grocery store on Kantstrasse that sells a wide array of fresh produce, but she is wary of buying them as many of the products are grown in Holland. And as I know from buying some produce once at the puny market in Moenchengladbach, the produce in Holland is usually void of flavor and watery.

Luisa was as nice as she comes across in her blog and her book, and I am grateful that she gave me some of her time while visiting her family in Boston to talk to me. Stay tuned for a follow-up post on Luisa’s Korean restaurant suggestions in Berlin!

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