Part of my intent in starting this blog a little over a year ago was to explore Stuttgart's culinary scene more thoroughly. I often lamented Stuttgart's lack of dining diversity as compared to some of the other cities we've visited, but the more I've blogged, the more I've searched for and found the diversity that I was craving. Though it may not be as obvious as in larger cities like Berlin and London, Stuttgart definitely has a lot of hidden gems.
One major bonus has got to be the festivals, and imagine my surprise when I discovered a new (to me) one downtown! Just around the corner from the Hamburger Fischmarkt, the SommerFestival der Kulturen has pitched their tents and stage in front of the Rathaus in the Marktplatz. Yes, I'd heard of it, but for some reason never made the effort to go. Now, seeing as I write a food blog, I thought I'd be remiss if I didn't at least make the effort this year, and I was really very pleasantly surprised!
We decided to check out the festival on Tuesday when it opened. Approaching from the Rathaus u-bahn station, I was struck by how big the festival was. It took up the full Marktplatz and even branched up the Hirschstraße and Kirchstraße. In the center of the festival in front of the Rathaus, there must have been almost two dozen food stands set up representing nations from all around the world. The Olympic line-up included food from China, Korea, Chile, Poland, Romania, Palestine, Haiti, Ethiopia, India, and Turkey, to name just a few, all set up in a big U-shape around the music stage. We arrived in time to hear a really cool gypsy jazz band from Greece, though the program advertised a variety of music from Morocco, Cuba, London, Paris, West Africa, Istanbul, Hungary, Sicily, and Mali.
While enjoying the music, we decided to wander around and try a few foods that caught our eyes. Unfortunately, not all of the tents were very clearly labeled, and with the crowds so dense, it was sometimes hard to spot the laminated signs from the city set up below the counter. Our strategy was basically to stare at the plates that other people walked away with, and either go up to the stand where they'd just been or ask them where they got their food from. In this way, we got to try a delicious churrasco from the Chilean stand. The sandwich was stuffed with tomato, avocado, and shaved beef, and we added a really delicious tomato-chili sauce that was on the side. I would highly recommend it.
Our next stop was to the Haitian stand where some fried plantains caught my eye in a photo above the stall. Unfortunately, as the woman explained to me, they didn't have that dish (though I don't know why). Instead, she recommended the fish, slaw, and rice, which I was happy to try. The fish had been spiced and steamed, while the rice had a yummy mix of shrimp, peas, beans, and carrots.
I should also note that though they had tons of tables and benches set up in the middle of the square, the festival was very packed, and I found myself sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder with other festival goers. We often chose to walk or stand somewhere away from the center. Walking up and down Hirsch- and Kirchstraße, we saw lots of lovely printed scarves and bags, jewelry, and bowls from Africa, the Middle East, and South America. If you missed the Afrika Festival last weekend, they you could probably find several of the same vendors here.
Once we'd finished our fish, we made one last stop for food at a Chinese-Korean stand where Matt picked up a pork bun and dumplings. It's been a really long time since I've had a pork bun, and this one was delicious -- soft, steamy bun with a savory pork filling. The stand had a card for a restaurant called Amani in Feuerbach, and we may have to go check them out now.
Still wanting dessert, I decided to try the Arabische Süßigkeit (or Asian sweet) at the Palistinian stand after asking a lady where she'd gotten her dessert from. The "sweet" turned out to be a kind of coconut cake that I suspect had some kind of syrup drizzled on it. It was exactly what I'd wanted to end the night, though they were wrapping up some appetizing falafel wraps that I wished I'd have tried, too.
After three dishes and dessert, we were both full, but I feel like we hardly even scratched the surface of the festival. There were so many more food stands to try, including lots of cocktail stands. We'll definitely be back again later this week.
The festival is open from 5:30 pm until 10 pm tonight, then from 5:30 to 11 pm on Friday, 4:30 to 11pm on Saturday, and from 11 am until 10 pm on Sunday. I would advise you go early, if you can, to avoid some of the larger dinner crowds. Also, be sure to check out the music program to see if something is playing that you're interested in.
Have you been to the SommerFestival der Kulturen? What was your favorite part?