Traditional Beer and Food in Cologne

Thinking about what food you’re going to eat in Cologne, Germany? You’re in luck, there are some pretty delicious dishes to try out!

One can eat pretty well in most traditional-style Kölsch restaurants, and as a visitor, you should try some of the local food in Cologne, which is quite rustic, but tasty, hearty fare.

The brewery taps (Früh, Sion, Pfaffen, Malzmühle etc. in the old town south of the Dom) are worth taking note of to that respect, although they tend to be expensive for what you get (but still worth the experience).

See also: Off The Beaten Track Tip: Belgian Quarter Cologne

Restaurants in Cologne

When looking for restaurants in Cologne, places out of the way such as Schreckenskammer and Max Stark (north of the train station, the former being within crawling distance of the Station Backpackers Hostel), Päffgen (Friesenstrasse) and both of Cologne’s independent brewpubs (Hellers Brauhaus on Roonstrasse and Braustelle in Ehrenfeld) offer cheaper and better food than the old town tourist traps. Besides, most of these places have tons of atmosphere, which doesn’t hurt!

You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places. If it happens to you, don’t get upset, just enter the game, send the Köbes packing with a dig and a smile and you’ll be all right. You’ll mostly find typical Rheinland dishes in those traditional Kneipen.

Local food in Cologne, Germany
Where to get local food in Cologne, Germany – depositphotos.com

Traditional food in Cologne that you have to try

Here are a few local foods in Cologne to try out:

  • Halver Hahn: a nice big slab of dutch gouda with a rye roll (Röggelchen)
  • Himmel und Äd mit Flönz: fried black pudding with mashed potatoes (“earth”), apple sauce (“heaven”) and fried onions. 
  • Soorbrode /Sauerbraten: a joint marinated in vinegar with raisins, usually served with red cabbage and a kloss (potato dumpling). The joint may be beef or horsemeat, so you may want to ask first…
  • Dicke Bunne mit Speck: boiled white beans with hefty boiled bacon slices on top. 

& my favorites

  • Schweinshaxe aka Hämchen: pig’s leg, usually a bit of a monster (ranges from 600 to 1400 grms, including the bone)
  • Rievekoochen / Reibekuchen: flat fried potato cakes usually on offer once a week, and served with a variety of sweet or savoury toppings, which may include apple sauce, Rübenkraut (the beet-sourced equivalent to black treacle) or smoked salmon with horseradish cream.

Cologne is famous for its Kölsch (beer)

When in Cologne, you have to try the beer!

Typical Cologne beer is called “Kölsch” and served in bars around town in small glasses, called “Stangen”, of 0.2l. That way the beer is always fresh and cold.

Don’t worry, waiters will quickly bring you a new one once your old one is (almost) finished. In more traditional bars and especially the breweries, the waiter (called “Köbes” in local language) will even hand you a fresh Kölsch without being asked, so it is easy to lose track of how much you drank. He will put a pencil line on your coaster for each beer that you drink, this will be the basis for your bill, so do not lose it!

To stop the beer from coming, put the coaster on top of your empty glass. You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places.

If you buy bottled Kölsch, take either “Reissdorf”, “Früh”, “Gaffel” or “Mühlen”, which are rated highest by Cologne citizens (there are about 30 more brands). There are so many bars and pubs to choose from that you could spend most of the night going from one bar to the next.

Beer in Cologne, Germany
Beer in Cologne, Germany – depositphotos.com

Where to get beer in Cologne

For traditional breweries, head to the Altstadt around the Dom, where the “Früh Kölsch” brewery is the most authentic place, famous both with visitors and locals.

A few of the restaurants that we mentioned above are also great for beer.

You will find a younger crowd at “Hellers Brauhaus” on Roonstraße, near metro station Zülpicher Platz or “Brauhaus Pütz” on Engelbertstraße close to Rudolfplatz.

Furthermore the “Päffgen“, on the all-bar street Friesenstraße close to the Friesenplatz, and the “Mühlen” near Heumarkt are traditional brewery pubs but less touristy than the “Früh“.

Früh brewery in cologne
Früh – Famous Brewery and pub in Cologne. Depositphotos.com

Also recommended is Sion, which is a lesser known brand, but hailed to be very good, although some beer enthusiasts have found it lacking character from 2007 onwards.

Most Altstadt pubs are somewhat scorned as “tourist traps” by locals, however: prices here are usually higher on Zülpicher Straße. The breweries also serve you great meals from the typical local cuisine, and they are famous for its large portions.

DO NOT order another beer than Kölsch in a brewery (especially not Alt beer from Düsseldorf)! It’s very unfriendly and it might happen that you get kicked out in a brewery! Ok, if you don’t speak German, I guess you might be lucky…but if you are German…you will be kicked out! It’s because of the rivalry between both cities.

Also, if you order a glass of milk, it might take more than 30 minutes till you get it. Your friends will have a few glasses of Kölsch in that time already.

There are a lot of modern bars and lounges all around town. More mainstream ones are on Zülpicher Straße. For something more independent and funky on this street, try Umbruch (funky) or Stiefel (punky). The Low Budget on Aachener Straße next to Moltkestraße metro is a nice, unassuming, punky bar which features a fine selection of drinks and often hosts concerts, poetry or cabaret sessions.

A lot of stylish places are in the so-called Belgian quarter between Aachener Straße and the Ring, e.g. famous M20 or the Hallmackenreuther.


Healthy Food in Vietnam: Tofu & Tao Pho

Now in my thirties, I have clear memories of curling up on my grandfather’s lap, back when I was a small child.

He’d sit on a old wooden bed and smoke a china bowl pope, his ancient shriveled hands breaking grilled tofu into pieces and dipping the morsels into salt.

As a child, I thought that the tofu chinks looked unappealing, but the adults seemed to enjoy eating them. It was common to see cyclo drivers eating this dish by the roadside during their breaks at the time Hai Phong still had many flamboyant trees and low small houses.

If I shut my eyes I can still smell the scent of grilling tofu.

Tofu is among the healthy food in Vietnam not to be missed!

Healthy food in Vietnam
Healthy food in Vietnam

Heathy food in Vietnam

Tofu

Even today grilled tofu is still offered in cheap beer bars, where customers enjoy its pungent taste. Tofu is used in all sorts of ways. Dried boiled or steamed. This ingredient however is rarely served at feasts or fancy dinners.

Most Vietnamese people consider tofu to be humble fare. It is cheap and readily available. In Asia, people have been making food from soy beans for century. Tofu and other soy products are associated with devout Buddhists, who are vegetarian for religious reasons. Soy products are used to make meat substitutes that sometimes look and taste just like meat.

Visit any market in Vietnam and you will see women selling Tofu out of flat baskets. Shoppers come to know who make the best tofu and popular vendors sell out early. In Hanoi, Dau Mo (Tofu from Mo Market) is considered a specialty, like basil from Lang Village or soy sauce from Ban Village.

The Tofu makers in Mo Village have their own secret, although all tofu contains similar ingredients. Perhaps the tofu in Mo Village observe better standards of quality control, using better ingredients and refusing to cut corners to obtain a short term profit.

Making Tofu is time consuming.

Producers are up most of the night in order to get their tofu to market at dawn. First one must grind the soy beans then filter them before cooking, cooling packaging compressing and peeling the resulting tofu. Each step requires careful and experienced hands.

Today, the old villages of Ke Mo are but a memory. The streets feature narrow shop-house and high rises. Even Mo Market is long gone, having been demolished to build a shopping centre. Food lovers in Hanoi, however still recall the excellent of Mo tofu.

Tofu in Vietnam
Tofu in Vietnam

Tao Pho

Tofu makers produce a range of products. The output of their first step of production is Tao Pho, a white, condensed pudding that is serve as a dessert with sweet syrup. Very popular with women, this is a good snack on a hot summer day.

In northern Vietnam, Tao Pho sellers often ride bicycles with a barrel of Tao Pho behind them. The vender uses a flat spoon to ladle thin layers of Tao pho into a bowl before adding syrup.

Today as people are increasingly affluent, the more sophisticated Japanese style of Tofu is gaining popularity. The purest product of the tofu cooking process this type of soft tofu may be found on buffet tables and at fancy feasts.

In my view, this type of tofu is too soft, breaking apart as soon as one takes a bite. For daily fare, I prefer the ordinary, traditional Vietnamese tofu.

Some afternoons, I sit at a roadside restaurant under a flamboyant tree and enjoy the rich taste of grilled tofu flavored with turmeric. This dish never fails to remind me of my childhood.

Good food doesn’t need to be expensive and there’s so much healthy food in Vietnam!

Good food is food that is eaten at the right time and place and that makes you feel good.

Looking for more food in Vietnam? Check out these posts:


China

The Incredible Food and Eating Culture of China

 

Traveling as a vegetarian isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

It’s often whittled down to a paltry choice between some kind of flavourless pasta/bread/rice/vegetable combination, leading to a frustratingly unimaginative diet.  There is also a constant barrage of temptation being thrown at you whatever your reason for no longer eating meat.

Despite a very near moment of weakness in Costa Rica two years ago, I’ve managed pretty well so far. But nowhere was as easy for me to remain positively adamant that my carnivorous side is in the past than China. And no, this wasn’t because the meat served in China was… erm, strange, to put it nicely, it’s because the vegetarian food available was in-cred-ible.

Here’s some of my best China food memories, and things not to miss out on:

1) Chinese Steamed Buns.

I don’t know the Chinese name of these buns, much to the absolute dismay of my Slovenian companion and I. They’re absolutely different to anything I’d tasted in the West… kind of like bread, but I think they’re made of rice. My descriptions do it no justice. However, after discovering a taste for the mysterious buns, spotting a tiny shop making morning batches of these bad boys at the side of the street on the way home, after a spontaneously crazy night in Beijing, was like finding Mecca. We sat down and steadily made our through 36 of them between three of us. They were dipped in fresh chilies and soy sauce. These little stores are all over China, and always worth a quick visit.

2) A Breakfast Buffet to End All

For most Westerners, breakfast isn’t really a big deal… You know, a bit of bread, some cereal, fruit, yogurt, cheese.  Aside from the full English breakfast, I’ve never really experienced discomfort from eating so much first thing in the morning. So when I was invited to breakfast with our Chinese hosts, I was not prepared for the absolute feast we were presented with: Dishes upon dishes of noodles, rice, spiced vegetables, meat in various sauces, those all important steamed buns… the list was endless. A strange but memorable experience, and again, one that I would recommend! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all…

3) Revolving Restaurant and the Shanghai Skyline

Due to a generous budget being afforded to me by the people sending me around the world, my travel companions and I treated ourselves to dinner at the very swanky revolving restaurant in the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The food wasn’t served on revolving tables because the floor rotated around the tables and tables of food, which did the job. The main experience here wasn’t the food (despite it being, yet again, mouth wateringly, greed inducingly delicious) but the views, which is the entire glowing skyline of Shanghai. Words can’t really describe it. Restaurants throughout the country are cheap in comparison to many places around the world, and are often of a really high standard. Even a backpacker budget can stretch to a coupe of good meals out!

4)  The Chinese Culture of Eating

It wasn’t just the food itself that was amazing, but the Chinese experience of eating. Huge round tables full of dishes upon dishes of different types of food served with green tea and, strangely, never water.  Everyone seated at the table trying everything that is on offer, really appreciating the food in front of them, and enjoying each other’s company. In a world that is increasingly too busy to sit down and eat a meal by themselves let alone in the company of others, this was a refreshing taste of Chinese culture that has stayed with me.