Fish in Germany

With its Baltic Sea coast and numerous big rivers, fish is practically on every menu. As you would expect, coastal areas like Hamburg and Bremen will tend to be biased towards seafish, whilst more land-locked regions will have more fresh water fish. However, you will see both on any given menu.

The following list gives you translations of some of the more common fish – and fish dishes – that you will come across:

Rainbow trout  = Regenbogenforelle

Brown trout = Forelle

Salmon = Lachse/Seelachse

Char = Saibling

Pike = Hecht

Carp = Karpfen

Monkfish/Angler fish = Seeteufel (Literally “Sea Devil”)

Atlantic Cod = Dorsch, Kabeljau

Haddock = Schellfisch

Turbot = Steinbutt

Brill = Glattbutt

Halibut = Weißer Heilbutt

lemon Sole = Rotzunge

Plaice = Scholle, Goldbutt

Whiting = Wittling

Hake = Hechtdorsch

Herring = Hering

John Dory = Petersfisch

Mullet = Meeräsche

Seabass = Wolfsbarsch

Zander = Zander

Tuna = Thunfische

Mackerel = Makrele

Bream = Meerbrassen

Prawns = Garnelen

Edible Crab = Taschenkrebs

Mussels = Muscheln

Lobster = Hummer

Fishy dishes we recommend:

Bismarckherring“: pickled (in a sweet marinade) herring fillets, served in a bread bun as street food or with a little side salad, gherkins or oickled dill cucumbers  and some bratkartoffeln.

Closely related to the Bismarckherring is the “Rollmops” – a fillet of herring, rolled up around a pickle and secured with skewers which has then  been pickled in brine. Quite delicious but sometimes a bit tart. Often served as a side dish to:

Labskaus“: the best way to describe this would be a cross between a sailor´s corned beef hash and “Bubble and Squeak”. When I make it, I used mashed spuds, corned beef and/or yesterdays left over meat – might be pork, might be beef – finely chopped. Onions, some finely chopped blanched carrot, garden peas, some chopped anchovies/ chopped pickled herring/flaked smoked mackerel/that smoked salmon or leftover gravadlax from last night  – put them all in a frying pan with a mixture of butter and olive oil. (Or duck or goose fat if you have it) When the onions are sautéed, add the potatoes and meat. I add a bit of chicken stock or yesterdays leftover gravy – it is important not to let the spuds catch on the bottom of the pan – but equally you don´t want to eat slurry – so you can allow the stock to reduce, and the spuds to dry out a bit. When the mixture has firmed up, try tossing it like you would a pancake. If this is beyond your capabilities (it can be quite a heavy pan), slap it under the grill. Serve with pickles, rollmops and a runny fried or poached egg on top as your sauce. Due to the maritime connections, you will only encounter this in restaurants in towns with a close connection to the sea – I have certainly never seen it on a menu in Bavaria. Good for hangovers, I normally make this after after a wild night out while I wait for the coffee machine to do its magic.


“Labskaus” with pickles, fried egg and a rollmops. Perfect for that Hamburg Hangover. (©GeoTrinity via Wikipedia)

Sahneherring“: pickled herring – boned and skinned – in a creamy sauce which contains onions, chopped gherkins and apple. Served cold but with usually with hot new potatoes. When I lived in Berlin this was my typical Friday dinner. Well this and a shed-load of beer.

Steckerlfisch“: literally “Fish on a stick” – like an ice lolly…but made of fish. This is really a summer dish which you see in the beer gardens and beer festivals. The fish is either trout or mackerel, often stuffed with parsley, which has been cooked over hot coals. One of these, a fresh soft pretzl and a glass of the good stuff is a lovely way to waste a bit of time on a sunny afternoon. Mackerel has something of a bad rep in certain quarters: a poor fish, best given to the cat or used as bait – but this is so not the case. Cooked just right, it is juicy, very flavoursome and with those lovely black tiger stripes, really quite a handsome fish.


Mackerel Sterckerlfisch, as seen at the “Fischer Vroni” tent at the Munich Oktoberfest. The tent is famous for its seafood and for the delicious Augustiner beer. (© Leah Sherman-Kish)