Searching for East Germany’s Communist Cuisine

Back in the times of the GDR (German Democratic Republic), it was nearly impossible for chefs to get their hands on a lot of basic ingredients. Most meals were born out of necessity, with chefs really having to flex their creativity. GDR food was also heavily influenced by the recipes of the USSR. Our host Stacy Denzel Janmaat leads us on a journey to find what is left of the notorious GDR cuisine, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin wall.

In the East-German city of Leipzig, the “Gaststätte Kollektiv” aims to recreate the GDR dining experience through its detailed interior and food. The 29-year-old owner and chef was born in Leipzig, and although he was still quite young when the wall came down, he was still able to tell us about the days of limited food availability.

Back in Berlin, we go on the lookout for traditional GDR snacks. Though snack stands were rare in the GDR, the precious few outlets for fast food served mainly Ketwurst (a kind of hot dog) and Grilletta (a take on a hamburger). Fortunately, we find a spot where the traditional Ketwurst has somehow managed to survive the return of the hot dog.

We then accompany our host as he goes shopping at the only remaining GDR supermarket in Berlin to buy the ingredients for a 3-course menu of Soljanka (a Russian meat stew with red peppers, cucumbers and capers), fried veal’s liver with onions and potatoes, and the GDR version of French toast. Watch as our host whips it up in his own kitchen for a dinner with friends.

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