Thursday, August 18, 2011

Introducing… The Tegel Injection

Most antipodeans are warned about “the Heathrow injection” when they arrive in the UK for a working holiday. The backpacker diet of toast, plentiful pints, and late-night visits to the chippy usually result in 5-10lb added insulation within the first few months. But you know, it’s easy enough to avoid if you remember that carbs are just one of five food groups, and chips (“crisps”) have no nutritional content whatsoever.
The problem facing a newly-arrived Berliner however, is that the diverse array of eateries on street corners tick all the boxes to justify indulging: 1) “I can’t eat this anywhere else, therefore it’s a cultural experience” 2) “There’s a huge line of German people waiting so it must be tasty” 3) “IT'S SO CHEAP!”. Add to this the drinking culture of popping a frosty no matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, and within three weeks ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be feeling the effects of the Tegel Injection. (Let’s remember this is during summer, when you’re cycling between parks, bars and clubs all day and night. God knows what it’s like during winter.)

Chicken schawarma (left) and falafel (right), €2.50, from Habibis in Kreuzberg, near Südstern U-bahn.

It’s quite timely that the Guardian online posted its 10 best budget eats for Berlin yesterday… timely because I sampled most of the spots on the list in the past week with three visiting friends, and because it provided an explanation this morning for why my summer onesie was feeling a little more snug than what it was three weeks ago.
Interesting to see there’s no döner kebab (or falafel) joint included on the Guardian’s list. Mustafa’s on Mehringdamm str. in Kreuzberg is probably the best-known döner place in Berlin, and a 30-minute wait in line is pretty standard. If you’re looking for less carbs and more chicken/vegetable filling, go for the flat bread wrap (Dürüm, 3.90) over the standard donor ‘sandwich’ (Hänchen donor mit Gemüse, €2.90) which involves a bread roll toasted flat and then cut and filled with chicken kebab meat and salad.

Mustafa’s donors go above and beyond the usual fare – chips, fetta, fresh herbs, and a sweet, smoky flavor from the chicken marinade mingling with the yoghurt and chilli sauces. Another positive is that due to the donor stall’s constant trade, you can rest assured that the meat is freshly cooked and freshly served… always a good thing when you’re talking about chicken of dubious origins.

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