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Currywurst Sauce: Should Ketchup, Tomato Sauce or Tomatoes Be the Base?

In another thread Linguafood mentioned currywurst, which is a dish I'd never heard of before. After doing a bit of research, I'm now mad to make myself some currywurst. But there seems to be no consensus on whether the base of the sauce should be ketchup, tomato sauce or tomatoes.

Any of you hounds care to offer a brother some advice?

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  1. I know of a German deli that imports curry ketchup from Germany. When they are out of stock--or when I balk at the costly markup--the lady there remarks that it's just ketchup with copious amounts of curry powder.

    That said, ketchup was not a common condiment in Germany when I lived there over ten years ago. So what they call ketchup might differ in some ways from the USA model.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bada Bing

      I've seen that curry ketchup at CostPlusWorldMarkets, but the bottle is too large to experiment with. So I've just gone the ketchup with curry powder route. It certainly works, though I haven't had the real thing to compare it to. While quite popular in Germany, especially Berlin, the tradition only goes back some 50-60 years, and it is street food. So how can any of the alternatives be wrong?

    2. If you know anyone who is retired military or active duty, you can ask them to pick you up a bottle at a base commissary (although it's against the rules, no one will know any way) it will be about $3. They carry it for GI's and their spouses who are from there who miss the tastes of home, they usually carry alot of ethnic stuff.

      1. Curry sauce is pretty much ketchup with curry powder and maybe a few other seasonings. The really good sauces are not quite as tangy as Heinz and have a delicious savory sweetness that is closer to Japanese curry than to the flavor of curry powder.

        11 Replies
        1. re: JungMann

          I'm going the Heinz route with some German wurst made at the local university's meat lab. Will doctor Heinz with minced onion sauteed in bacon fat, a healthy blast of Deep curry powder, perhaps a small amount of sugar, a bit of garlic, and a sizeable dose of hot paprika. At least that's the plan for now. Oh yeah--I've heard that a few drops of Worcestershire applied after the dish has been plated can be nice.

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            I don't know if the onion is necessary -- curry sauce is always smooth in my experience. But the garlic could be a nice touch. Worcestershire sauce also sounds like a good addition.

            1. re: JungMann

              One of the best currywurst stands in Berlin makes their own sauce -- it packs a nice punch and has bell pepper and onion slices in it (almost like the highly un-PC named "Zigeunersauce"). It is the best drunk food ever, right after a good döner kebab :-)

              1. re: JungMann

                What I had in mind was VERY finely minced onion. Heck, I've got some dried onion bits I use for chili that might work well in this sauce. There's also onion powder.

              2. re: Perilagu Khan

                That sounds like a good start, PK, tho some diced raw onion would be even more true to the original.

                As for the curry ketchup suggestion... stay clear of that crap, it is revolting.

                1. re: linguafood

                  So just add the onion to the Heinz along with the rest of the ingredients? Also, should the sauce be reduced substantially?

                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                    It can be any consistency you want it to (as JM said, many currywurst stands in Germany simply use ketchup with curry powder on top), but I think it should be slightly on the thicker side.

                    Please let us know how they turn out. I have to wait a few weeks for my next one :-)

                    1. re: linguafood

                      The term developed from a post-war recipe You can read the detail history on Wikipedia.

                      When I worked in Franfurt as an Engineer, I was told the recipe was the result of a local bartering with English Occupation servicemen. Hence the addition of Curry, and Colemans' Hot Mustard powder, among other items. The tomato sauce or Ketchup additive may may come from a bartering US serviceman: Who knows ?

                      But at Midnight, in the cold rain, any Currywurst offered by the local Imbiss was always a welcome sight and aroma. It made a few meager slices of a single wurst go a very long way.

                      There are many variations in the country, including garlic, onion, and paprika. The recipe is certainly evolving. If ones is on a budget, and improvises with what is available on hand, it is reasonable to assume a similar recipe can also be developed with a little experimentation at home.

                      Zigeunersauce, or Gypsy sauce is another matter entirely, having been around for many years pre-war. The taste although good on it's own, is very different.

                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                        A) The Berlin lady who invented currywurst will be interested to find out it was in fact invented in Frankfurt.

                        B) I never said the curry "sauce" that generally comes with currywurst is the same or even similar to Zigeunersauce. I said the *best* currywurst I personally have eaten was made with a real, zesty-spicy sauce incorporating onions and bell peppers -- not your usual ketchup & curry powder mix.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          I think you misunderstood, or took defense in what I wrote.

                          The Currywurst was reported as invented in Berlin. It is now found throughout Germany, illustrating it's popularity, which includes Frankfurt Am Main. No one posted, implied, or stated otherwise.

                          You also added a comment about Gypsy sauce, quite different and many generations older than Currysauce for wurst. I only clarified the difference for those unfamiliar with the two, so no mistakes are made.

                          If that well-known sauce ( Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other countries ) is not politically correct for you as you state, then that is your issue.

                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                            I guess we both misunderstood each other.

                            I don't recall mentioning anything about having a PC problem with Zigeunersauce (save for it's name, of course -- the term Zigeuner is not used anymore, as it is considered a derogatory term).

                            No, I had merely commented that the best currywurst *I* personally have ever eaten was at a place in Berlin that concocts their own sauce. A real sauce, made with onions & peppers, similar to "Zigeunersauce", and more complex than your usual, run-of-the-mill ketchup + curry powder. Thazz all.

            2. Here's what I made last night:

              ¾ cup ketchup
              ¾ T. curry powder
              3/4 T. hot paprika
              ½ T. onion powder
              1 t. salt
              ½ t. sugar
              ½ t. garlic powder
              1 T. sherry vinegar

              1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a high simmer.
              2. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook, uncovered, until sauce reduces to a consistency slightly thicker than ketchup.
              3. Serve over grilled wurst that has been sliced into 1 ½ inch rounds.

              On the whole, it was quite good. For a Texan who loves BBQ and Indian food there was nothing bizarre or even particularly exotic about it, though. Basically tasted like a grilled sausage with an Indian-inflected BBQ sauce. Which is more or less what it was.

              Now the flavor of the sauce was a bit too tangy, I think, and I also think I'd prefer it be a bit less viscous. Next time I make this I'm going to substitute a T. of riesling for the sugar, and use rice wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar. I'll also cut out the salt; no need for it.

              1. While not a currywurst connoseur myself, in my experience the, oh, 20+ times I've eaten in my life--basically from stands/stalls ("Currywurstbude") on the street, the sauce is basically, no, IS just ketchup with curry powder added. Sometimes you can see the curry powder floating around in the sauce. This is simple food, so I don't think you have to worry so much about the exact consistency as it may vary a little. I've never seen it chunky.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Wawsanham

                  From what I've read about this stuff, it's very common to actually sprinkle a bit of curry powder on the dish after it's "plated."