In Search of Scharf

As the international food section of any supermarket here would have you believe, we Americans love our tacos. And our hot sauce. And our salsa. And our marshmallows. And anything with a “stars and stripes”-decorated label slapped on it.

Recently, we’ve been trying to perfect a popular and easy snack in the U.S. – tortilla chips. Now, by “perfect,” I don’t mean that we are making these things ourselves. Come to think of it, that might actually be easier than what we have been doing – seeking out salsa and chips that look sort of like what we would like to have, then eating them and being anywhere from pleasantly surprised to slightly disappointed to disgusted.

Delicious spicy food in Berlin.

“Disgusted” really only applied to one kind of salsa that we bought. It’s not one of the ones pictured below, and I don’t remember the brand, or else I would warn you all away from it. After one bite, I checked the ingredients list – and the second ingredient was sugar. Yes, sugar.

The rest of the salsa has been pretty “meh.” As a rule, spiciness is scary here. I normally can’t handle salsa labeled as “Hot, Hot, Hot!” in the U.S. but here, we’ve had to start buying these kinds to even get a slight tickle of the idea that the salsa wants to be spicy. Probably the most successful salsa so far has been the “El Paso” brand that we’re currently working on – but it’s full of black pepper and other spices, rather than jalapeño, etc.

Hello, culturally-appropriate mascot!

“Poco loco” indeed.

Old El Paso, produced in…Spain.

Unless you’re shopping at a large supermarket, and sometimes even then, you will likely have trouble finding regular ol’ tortilla chips. If they only have one kind, it is likely Käse-flavored or sometimes even Paprika. El Fuego brand (just look for the singing cactus) is pretty prominent here, but you don’t get a whole lot for your money. I personally like the Edeka store brand lightly-salted chips. If we lived in a bigger city, we’d probably be able to get more imported, familiar brands – but for what they cost, it still might be more practical to make do with the singing cactus.

9 responses to “In Search of Scharf

  1. I don’t really know, but with Bielefeld being in the formerly British-occupied zone, you might want to try if there’s an American-style/food supermarket somewhere further to the south, in the formerly American-occupied zone of Germany, where American soldiers are still stationed. But, of course, that’s a bit far just for shopping.
    Take care, and have a good one,
    P.S.: I can only confirm your opinion. I recently went to a Tex-Mex restaurant in Bonn and found their dip for the chips [it was called “red sauce”] quite flat.

  2. Try Xenos – Green Bag is the Salted Corn Tortilla Chips (unflavored). They are about right (a little salty for my taste but closer than anything else). And the Refried Beans aren’t bad either (NOT the Mexican Beans – ew disgusting) though they sometimes need a little extra mashing to get the right consistency when cooking. Just found another store in Berlin with Masa and other goodies to check out. Will report back after next weekend if it is any good!

  3. We finally decided it was easier and tastier to make our own salsa and everything you need is readily available except for fresh cilantro (koriander). You can find it at larger grocery stores like Real, at warehouse stores like Selgros/Metro or at Asian food stores. As for the chips I haven’t found the perfect ones but if you have good salsa then you can get away with less than perfect chips. Good luck!

    • Yes, the Asian stores usually have a lot of things that I can’t find anywhere else (black beans, really good tofu, etc.). Will give that a try!

      • Rewe has black beans, if you have one of those.

        I bought brown beans from somewhere and I can’t for the life of me remeber where. Every shop I go in doesn’t have them.

    • I’m thinking I will gather everyone’s suggestions and try to make some of my own in the coming weeks. Much more promising than store-bought!

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