German fish dishes are surely not the first thing that comes into your mind when looking for German food. In Germany, we eat almost 15kg fish per person per year and every German restaurant has at least 3 fish dishes on the menu.
If you are lucky enough and go to Northern Germany, or to a city with a big river – you will have even more dishes to chose from.
Despite the fact that the most eaten fish in Germany is salmon, Germans enjoy many other types of fishes. Alaska pollock fillet, known as Backfish, beloved herring in many different variations, and trout – just keep on reading, I will tell you all about it!
German Fish Dishes
1. Bismarckbrötchen – Pickled Herring in a bread roll
Herring lives in the North and Baltic Sea and is the most underrated fish of all. At a time the fish was very important both, economically and politically. It saved people from famine in the Middle Ages, caused wars between England and Holland and got Dane wealthy.
There are many traditional ways to serve the fish in Germany, but let me focus on Bismarckbrötchen. This particular speciality consists of a white bread roll and pickled herring served with fresh onion slices.
Already around the year, 1000 Bishop Otto von Bamberg discovered that by salting herring the fish can be preserved. This discovery was not only other ways of serving herring but also allowed longer and further sea voyages. From that time on – the Germans started pickling the herring. Bismarckbrötchen is called after Bismark who was the biggest fan of herring served this way. they named the snack after him.
And just for your information – Bismarck was a huge food lover – he couldn’t visit Frankfurt without having the whole bowl of Frankfurt Sausage for breakfast.
2. Buttermakrelebrötchen – Escolar Bread Roll
If the name is not familiar – I am sure you have had it once in the sushi restaurant! The fish is finger-licking good, and as soon as you try it – you won’t have enough of it! But I will stop you right there because escolar contains wax ester and therefor the fish is very stodgy. If you eat too much of it, it can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fever and vomiting. I would recommend you to try it anyway – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The bread roll on the photo we got at Rügenmarkt in Thiessow. The right place to go to, if you are a food lover visiting Island Rügen in Germany.
3. Räucherfisch – Smoked Fish
Fish cured by smoking has been very popular here in Germany for centuries. Before people used this process to preserve, now to develop the unique taste. The biggest shop with smoked fish I have seen so far has been the Kuttermanufaktur in Sassnitz. I don’t know what fish they haven’t sold. In Germany, we smoke herring, eel, salmon and marcel. A typical way of eating smoked fish is to have it in the bread roll or with potato salad. Smoked fish is usually served cold.
Matjes vs. Hering
Matjes are the young herrings that have not yet reproduced – the virgins of the sea. You can enjoy them fresh between May and July.
4. Herring Nach Oma’s Art – Herring salad with cream, apple and pickled cucumbers
This is one of the most delicious ways of eating herring. The salad contains herrings from brine, sour cream, onion, apple and pickled cucumbers. Usually, it is spiced with salt, pepper, sugar, lemon, sometimes with bay leaves, allspice and mustard seeds. Traditionally it is served with boiled potatoes. My favourite herring salad you can find in the most famous fish restaurants in Frankfurt: Fish Franke. I feature it in my video about 3 fish dishes to try in Germany.
5. Gebratene Hering – Fried Herring
My first fried herring I had in the restaurant called Zum goldenen Anker in a small village in Rügen, called Vitt. From there you can take beautiful him to Cape Arcona. The eating experience was remarkable: the fish had even more fishbones than carp! I don’t mind to ”work” a bit for delicious food. Let’s hope I burned some calories while eating it;)
6. Aal Blau – Cooked eel
Before going on a trip to Northern Germany I put cooked eel on my to-try list. I could find boiled eel in many restaurants in Rügen, but fried fish was always so tempting! I haven’t ordered it in the end, but Matthias grandmother did – and as soon as the food arrived at the table – I got jealous. Aal Blau (literal translation: Eel blue) meant to get the blue colour after being treated with vinegar. The eel we had was neither blue nor had a sour taste, so it’s hard to say if it was prepared that way. But after trying it, I knew, I wanted to have it in the next possible place! Eel is one of the fattiest fishes out there. It has unforgettable taste and texture, even when is cooked! In Germany, you can find it in many different variations of this dish. It can be served in a soup (Hamburger smoked Eel Soup), boiled, fried or smoked.
7. Forelle Müllerin – Trout Meunière with potatoes
“Miller’s wife” trout is one of the most common dishes that you can find on the menus in the German restaurants. In Germany – big fishes are usually prepared “à la meunière” which means that the fish before frying is dredged in flour. This makes the skin extra crispy. The most popular trouts to try in Germany are Seeforelle (Lake Trout), Regenbogenforelle (Rainbow Trout) and Bachforelle (Brown Trout). Trout Meunière is usually served with boiled potatoes and roasted almond flakes on the top or almond butter on the side.
This might be the most horrific speciality from Northern Germany. Labskaus is a dish traditionally prepared by boiling the beef in broth and then mincing it with the beetroot, onions, boiled potatoes and herring. At a time the dish was very popular among sailors, nowadays you will find it on every restaurant menu at the German seaside. The first Labskaus I had in the restaurant called Die Strandhalle in Binz. This was the fanciest version of this dish I have seen. The speciality consisted of medium-rare veal fillet, herring and onion Tatar, mash potatoes mixed with beetroot, pickled cucumber and a fried egg.
9. Backfish – Fried fish with Tatar sauce
The Alaska pollock is still a relatively recent discovery on the German tables. Until the mid-80s it used to be used as animal feed.
Afterwards, it became an alternative to cod and has since been used to produce fish fingers.
For many years the fish has ranked number one among the most consumed edible fish in Germany, probably because of that reason! Backfish is a very popular street food in Germany. The biggest German fish street food chain Nordsee serves it in two different variations: as a fish sticks and fillet. Both served with tartar sauce and bread roll. If you ask me – I would fo for fillet, you get more fish, and the fish is real:)
10. Karpfen – Carp
We surely cannot forget the carp among German Fish dishes! Carp has been known and beloved in Europe since Roman times. In Germany it is one of the traditional German Christmas and New Years Eve dishes, but not only! Carp is also a Franconian speciality, that is served in two ways: Karpfen fränkisch (halved and fried) or Karpfen in Biersoße (carp with beer sauce).
Carp become very popular because of the extensive Christian dietary rules, which did not allow to eat meat for up to 150 days during lent.
Traditionally German restaurant serves carp in the months with “r” latter (from September to April), so if you would like to try it – be aware of that! The taste of the carp depends on fish quality. High-quality fishes don’t have the muddy-earthy taste that most people complain about.
BONUS: German Fish Dishes – Plaice with Bacon
And bonus photo – for those of you who read till the end! As well as all the dishes mentioned above – it is very popular in Germany to serve fried fish with bacon on the top. On the picture below you can see European plaice served with crab and bacon pieces on the top. We found the dish in Stralsund in the brewery Braugasthaus Zum alten Fritz. I think I don’t need to tell you how delicious it was. For more “interesting” German food please read 12 Weird German Foods and Drinks.
I hoped that you enjoyed reading about all the different German fish dishes. If there is anything you would like to add please leave us a comment in the comment section. And also please don’t forget to mention if you are willing to try any of the German fish dishes we listed!
Do you want to see the German fish dishes that we have mentioned? Please watch our travel documentary from Rügen Island now.
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