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Know Your Opponent’s Kitchen Ep. 1: Hoffenheim

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To know your opponent, you must eat like your opponent. Maybe.

Street Food Thursday Launches In Berlin Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If you wish to truly understand your enemy, you must eat as he eats, and drink as he drinks.” - Sun Tzu’s personal chef, maybe.*

In a little more than a week, Liverpool will travel to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena to take on TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and fight for the right to participate in the UEFA Champions League group stages. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this fixture for Liverpool’s season, but we will probably try to do that anyway before the match.

Unlike many other food blogs, The Liverpool Offside has always retained a side interest in sports, particularly football, so to mark the occasion of Liverpool Football Club’s return to the Champions League, we** are going to explore some of the culinary delights peculiar to the cities that will host Jürgen Klopp’s squad during their continental excursions. Hopefully, there will be more than one article in this series.

The first iteration of this series will see us travel to Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany, where dangerous upstarts Hoffenheim make their home. As the name of their stadium implies, this region is demarcated by the Rhine and Neckar rivers, which come together at the city of Mannheim.

From a culinary perspective, it’s a far-from-homogenous area, and the presence of nearby Alsace, as well as that of diverse newer communities, all compete for space on local menus alongside the usual suspects from Swabia and Baden. Today, we’ll be focusing on some of those usual suspects that I meticulously researched (i.e. I asked some friends).

*Not really.

**Just me, really.

What it is: A pasta dough dumpling, typically filled with meat, spinach, and onions.

If this dish were a Liverpool player, it would be: Philippe Coutinho.

Legend has it that these little marvels were created as a way for Catholics to surreptitiously consume meat during Lent, as the good stuff is hidden by the pasta covering. Like their distant cousins in the hot pocket family, such as the ravioli, the Maultaschen are compact wonders of dumpling engineering, so much so that they are recognized by the European Union as a distinct regional specialty. Like Philippe Coutinho, Maultaschen are associated with things that you want to hide from God/Barcelona.

Let’s check out a scouting video:

***

What it is: Strips of crepe-style pancakes served in a beef/vegetable broth.

If this dish were a Liverpool player, it would be: Daniel Sturridge.

Unfussy, familiar, always satisfying, hearty, and yet a little bit delicate. The soupy broth is simplicity itself, but the secret to this dish lies in the crunchy and savory Flädle. At first glance, it looks like it’s going to be boring and do absolutely nothing for you, but then you bite into the crepe and it’s a game-changing, out-of-nowhere-late-goal event. An underrated gem.

***

What it is: You could call it a pizza, but then people might hurt you.

If this dish were a Liverpool player, it would be: Roberto Firmino

A close relation of the Flammkuchen or tarte flambée, this dish is essentially built from thinly-rolled bread dough, and usually topped with some combination of sour cream or crème fraîche, bacon, onions, leek, and chives. No pineapple, sorry. Like Firmino, people are always confusing this dish with something that it’s not, or getting its name wrong, but all of that just obscures the fact that it is amazing.

***

What it is: Chubby little dumpling/noodle hybrids made from potatoes, often pan-fried and served with sauerkraut.

If this dish were a Liverpool player, it would be: James Milner.

I don’t want to get into it over here, but I find these to be a bit boring. They’re fried potatoes, sorry. And then there’s the matter of the somewhat scandalous name by which alternatively known in the region, derived from the short, stubby, cylindrical appearance of these dumplings: Buabaspitzle or Bubespitzle. Look it up. It’s really weird. At the end of the day, I guess if you’re starving, they will do the trick, but as is the case with Milner, there are better options available.

Anyway, here’s another scouting video: