Food and Drink

There is nothing more refreshing after a long walk than a nice and very well deserved homemade meal, eating traditionally prepared recipes from all over the Carpathian basin, along with a wide range of Intercontinental gastronomy, you'll be able to find almost everything in this cultural melting pot. Paprika is very important of course. The first thing people in country homes will ask you is: have you eaten, have you drinken? There is always a welcome drink and a smile for guests.

 

Although appetizers are not traditionally offered, and eating a nice filling goulash soup is always nice, we really love our cold sour cherry soup in the summertime.

If you love fish dishes, you'll find sweetwater fishes in abundance. There are a few Hungarian breeds like the grey kettle or the Mangalica pork, you'll be able to find goose liver and all kind of venison or forest mushrooms easily, but traditionally we had many vegetarian and vegan dishes that are praised again not only as a healthier option but because they are just delicious. Cabbage and pickled vegetables of all kind are often on the dining table.

As for dessert, we say that there are so many cakes and biscuits, that you can choose another one for each coffee you take for a whole year. Our favorite cakes are Rigó Jancsi, Gerbeaud and the world winning Dobos cake, or the Jewish Flódni.

 

Eating a small bite between meals is offered in form of lángos, rétes or chimney cake.

 

The welcome drink traditionally is pálinka, or the Hungarian spirit is almost always fruit based, although some make it from vegetables as well. We say: if you can make marmalade, why not to make pálinka instead?

With the renaissance of craft beer, you will never be thirsty on a hot summer day, although homemade lemonade is always nice. What is even nicer is Hungarian wine. We have 6 main wine region and 22 altogether, so there is enough choice for everyone, no matter if you like red, white or rosé, but sparkling we are not short sparkling wine either. The preferred dessert wine of Louis the XIV was the Tokaji Aszú, so much that he called it Vinum Regnum Rex Vinorum.

 

If after all that drinking and eating you want to wash it down with a nice bitter to help your digestion, Unicum is your trusted Hungarian helper since 1790.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the nation’s colorful history Hungarian cuisine got influences from many ethnic gastronomies. In the first couple of centuries, our ancestors lived in the Euro-Asian steppe. They were a semi-nomadic group that lived as hunters and fishermen.

Around 500 AD the Magyar tribes migrated and settled down near the River Don.  They traveled with dried cubes or powdered meat. Ancient Hungarian cooking used several types of grains, like millet, oat and later wheat. The most delicious dishes were always made in a single pot. This pot was usually the bogrács, a cast iron kettle, hung on an iron stick over the fire. Bogrács is a very popular cooking utensil today, we use it for outdoor cooking.

 

After settling down in the Carpathian Basin our ancestor's incorporated pork in their cuisine. We often cook pork dishes today, especially in the villages where almost every family raises its own pork and butcher it during winter time within a great feast called disznótor.

 

In the early middle ages, after the consolidation of the Hungarian State, Hungarian cuisine had influences from both western and eastern nations. The reign of King Matthias was a high point in Hungarian history, for both culture and food. Through his Italian wife, Queen Beatrix, our renaissance king brought Italian cooking to Hungary. During this period, cooking was raised to a fine art. The great invasions left their marks on our cooking. The 150-year Turkish rule had lots of impacts on Hungarian cuisine. They brought paprika to Hungary, which became a symbol of Hungarian cooking.

Before paprika, ancient Hungarian cooks used dill, horseradish, marjoram, rosemary,

sage, and wild mushrooms. Hungary’s climate is very favorable for growing paprika, our country is a leading producer of this spice.

First, only peasants cooked with paprika, the privileged grew it in their garden for decoration purposes. Paprika became an alternative spice to pepper when the price of the latter started to increase. That’s why Hungarians called paprika török bors or Turkish pepper at first. It eventually replaced pepper in Hungarian kitchens in the 19th century. They added paprika to meat stews, soups, creating today’s paprikás and pörkölt, before paprika we made tokány that is still an important dish in modern cuisine, not to mention oven roasted meat. Every traditional house has to have an open air oven called kemence.

The Turks took away all domestic animals, except for the Hungarian mangalica pigs during their raids; they mustn’t eat pork because of their religion. Pork dishes have started to become prevalent in Hungarian cuisine since that time.

Other culinary advantages of the Turkish rule were a thin, flaky pastry called filo or phyllo dough, that is the base of any baklava. Rétes or strudel as you will know it, which was just as sweet as baklava at first, lángos, riced pilafs, and stuffed vegetables. Besides paprika, the Turks brought into Hungary several other plants such as tomato, corn, tobacco, cherry, and sour cherry plants, and most importantly tulips that are integrated into our folklore.

The Hungarian language preserved these culinary contributions, for example, the other name we use for corn is Turkish wheat.

Let’s not leave out coffee, the Turks introduced this drink to Hungary. Hungarians called coffee black soup in that era. Coffee culture and coffee houses were an integral part of Budapest’s cultural and social growth at the turn of the last century.

 

The Turks gave place to the Habsburgs. It’s controversial whether Hungary contributed more to the Austrian cuisine or vice versa. We find Germanic dishes in Hungarian restaurants quite often.

The Hungarian upper class maintained French-style cooking, similarly to the Austrian aristocrats. Middle-class Hungarians established Austrian dishes in their everyday meals, like schnitzel, sausages, potatoes, and thick bechamel-like sauces. At the turn of the last century, excellent Hungarian chefs laid the foundations of today’s Hungarian cuisine. They artfully adjusted our gastronomy to French gastronomy without losing the uniqueness of traditional Hungarian cooking.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Hungary’s cuisine was internationally renowned.

 

Unfortunately, the communist rule put an end to this gastronomic bloom. There were often shortages of certain produces and ingredients. In recent years restaurant chefs are trying to alter Hungarian cooking into more healthy, lower in calories, but still rich in vitamins, and at the same time preserve authentic local flavors.

The gastro scene has been undergoing a major change in recent years: new, inventive restaurants, bistros, and food bars open almost every month offering a delicious range from street food to the high-end Micheline restaurant.

 

The Hungarian cuisine is spicy and elaborate. We consume a lot of cheese and meat, as well as soups and stews, while the desserts are famous all over the world. Moreover, what is striking about this cuisine is its inherent diversity as recipes differ from place to place.

 

Gulyás – The national soup

 

Chunks of beef and vegetables are cooked with a dash of the quintessential paprika. Gulyás meaning herdsmen of a herd of cows, this dish was traditionally cooked over an open fire as a stew made exclusively of Grey Kettle. In the 1850's they transformed it to become the soup of all Hungarian soups. So they created a very filling soup and the poor rejoiced when they replaced beef by all kind of cheaper meat creating the faux goulash.

 

Halászlé – Fisherman’s soup

 

A thick red-colored soup made with an assortment of sweetwater fish, onion and lots of paprika. Another recipe that was traditionally cooked in on an open fire in a special fish cooking iron cast pot, this dish is famous for its spicy taste, the authentic fishy aroma, and the beautiful texture.

 

Don't be surprised, when you are served two sweet soups in the summertime. It proved our Asian heritage.

 

Meggyleves – Sour cherry soup

 

Sweet soup made with sour cherries, sugar or honey, sour cream or cream. The combination of cherries and cream is something unique!

 

Madártej - Bird's milk

 

An authentic sweet egg soup savored with vanilla custard, elaborately covered with freshly whipped and cooked egg white. If there were some things that money can’t buy, then it would surely be the aroma and taste of this dessert-like soup. An aphrodisiac!

 

Főzelék – A typical vegetable stew

 

A thick stew made with vegetables like white cabbage, potatoes, peas, carrots, lentils, spinach or any root and leaf vegetable or legumes, various spices added. Usually, a liaison is cooked made with flour and milk or flour on oil with water to thicken the stew. A fulfilling meal, this traditional Hungarian food is wholesome and flavourful. If you are crazy about sticking to your diet, then this food surely will fit in your menu.

 

Pörkölt - The Hungarian stew

 

This dish is made with lots of meat, any kind will be a success. Lots of onions and garlic is needed, and the quintessential paprika. They serve it with all kind of garnish, the best two is pearl pasta or freshly made dumplings. The pörkölt is best to eat with a fresh salad with vinegar dressing or pickles.

 

Sólet - Jewish bean stew

 

Sólet is made from kidney beans, onions, barley, and paprika. It is traditionally a Hungarian-Jewish dish. Sólet is usually served with 3 minutes boiled egg or a goose leg as garnish. It is called the Poor man's sólet or the Rothschild sólet depending on the garnish. Sólet is served usually on Shabbat. You can try it in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, at Kőleves restaurant, where they serve vegan Jewish meals too. Our favorite ruin-garden is there too! Wait, it is our favorite place!

 

Lecsó - the Hungarian ratatouille

 

It could be the new vegan heaven! Traditionally it is made with lard and sausage by the rich, poor folks made it without meat. The ingredients are very simple: lots of white pepper, onion, garlic, tomato simmered into a fantastic and tasty sauce. You can eat it with a loaf, adding it into your pörkölt, or riching it up with dumplings or eggs, but the best to eat it on its own.

 

Töltött káposzta - stuffed cabbage

 

Large leaves of cabbage, stuffed with meat and rice, which are cooked and then smothered with sour cream. It's straight-up Hungarian comfort food. Plus, the cabbage in Hungary is often pickled, offering a deliciously tangy component to this rich, savory dish.

 

Rakott burgonya - layered potatoes

 

A baked casserole-type dish made of layers of sliced potatoes, eggs, sausage, sour cream, and cheese. It's like the best parts of dinner and the best parts of breakfast came together and had a beautiful casserole baby.

 

Túrós csusza - cottage cheese noodles

 

Flat, wide noodles mixed with Hungarian túró cheese (think: a cross between cottage cheese and ricotta) and often topped with pieces of fatty bacon called szalonna. Do you like noodles? Do you like fresh cheese? Well, there you go. If you're a carnivore, the bacon topped with powdered sugar is a pretty nice bonus.

 

Kőrözött - cheese spread for breakfast or on your tapas

 

A spread made of túró or fresh cheese, salt, cumin, paprika, onion, and garlic. The perfect Hungarian protein bomb.

 

Túrógombóc - cottage cheese balls

 

Orbs of sweetened fresh cheese boiled, rolled in toasted bread crumbs, and served with sour cream sauce and sugar. Túrógombóc is incredibly filling, which can easily mean it is your dessert that is your dinner! One portion is enough for two.

 

Somlói galuska - Somló trifle

 

A dessert made of three different types of sponge cake: plain, walnut, and chocolate, raisins, and walnuts drizzled with dark chocolate rum sauce and topped with whipped cream. Not for the faint-hearted. You are risking to have a very sweet heart-attack.

 

Flódni - the most delicious Jewish delight

 

A Hungarian-Jewish pastry, traditionally made of four layers: walnut, apple, poppyseed, and plum marmalade. Very chick!

 

Kürtőskalács - chimney cake

 

A Transylvanian sweet spiral pull-apart bread that is baked rotisserie-style outdoors over charcoal. Often rolled in cinnamon, nuts, or coconut flakes, chimney cake is hot, fresh, sweet deliciousness. It's the only type of downward spiral you'd never want to end.

 

Bejgli - not only for Christmas

 

A spiral-shaped log roll containing a sweet walnut or poppyseed filling. Traditionally served at Christmas, bejgli is the perfect treat to cozy up and share with friends and family.

 

Rétes - the original Strudel

 

A strudel-like log of pastry, stuffed to the max with fillings such as apple, cottage cheese, poppyseed, sour cherry, cabbage or plum. There's no skimping on ingredients here. One thick slice of good rétes and a cup of Hungarian coffee and you're set for at least an afternoon.

 

Pogácsa - when you are on the go

 

Usually one of the first things to be served at dinner parties and get-togethers, pogácsa are a delicious and simple snack food of which it is impossible to eat just one. Small, bite-sized biscuits, dense and doughy in the center and often topped with cheese.

 

Lángos - Hungary's favorite street food

 

A plate-sized sheet of fried dough that is usually smothered with sour cream and cheese. Other possible toppings include garlic sauce. Only if you are not planning to kiss anyone.

 

Parasztlángos, kenyérlángos, langalló or pompos

 

This Hungarian pizza is always baked in an oven, usually packed with sour cream, onion, diced bacon. Very filling, you are good for the afternoon. It has various names depending on if you are in the south, east, west, or by the palóc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungary's favorite coffee is the espresso, very similar to the Italian ristretto. Not for the faint-hearted. We say, that there are so many cookies and cakes in Hungary, that for each coffee you can have another one all around the year. I would try it if I were you. Go ahead! It's not called binge manging...

And finally, all you have to know about Hungarian drinks that you would not be able to try elsewhere with the exception of the Tokaji Aszú.

 

Fröccs - the favorite of summer days

 

Fröccs is the simplest and most wonderful drink to have on a hot day: it is basically white wine mixed with soda water. There are many versions of fröccs with different names, depending on the wine-to-soda ratio. As Hungarian wines are delicious, so is fröccs. Our favorite is the Házmester or Concierge. Just perfect!

 

Pálinka - the Hungarian spirit

 

Pálinka is probably the most well-known Hungarian alcoholic beverage. It is a strong shot, traditionally distilled usually from different kinds of fruits: plums, peaches, cherries, grapes, pears, apple, quince, raspberry etc. Pálinka is typically enjoyed both before eating to help appetite, and at the end of a meal to aid digestion. You can try 220 premium pálinkas of differing flavors at Abszolút Pálinka in the heart of the Jewish quarter in Budapest.

 

Wines and beers

 

We have 22 wine regions, and a beer revolution currently going on. It is hard to keep up with it, but please do not hesitate to try it all. With moderation...  Or just check out our favorite wine region, Eger. Easy!