It is not only about eating roasted blood with onions or rooster testicle stew: the sugared cottage cheese and bread and dripping are all thought to be strange by foreigners, reports szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu.
Even if you ever heard about Hungarians having some strange eating habits, it can be hard to recognize: since bread and dripping with purple onion, pasta with poppy seeds, the tripe or the kidney and brains are so delicious – what can be so strange about them…? Yet foreigners getting to know the Hungarian cuisine and culinary culture surely have a hard time accepting the typical Hungarian dishes, ingredients, eating styles and habits. Here are some examples.
Hungarians living with foreigners quite often hear the shocked question “you fry the onion on oil (or fats) again?” It may not strike us, but most of our dishes really start like that, and these are not only stews and ragouts but also soups and vegetable dishes.
Fresh paprika is the essential ingredient of many Hungarian dishes: just think about the lecsó, but neither the goulash, the stew, nor the paprika potatoes would exist without the ground (Erős Pista, Édes Anna and their numerous clones) and hot paprika. Just to mention the most important dishes. So it could seem that paprika predominates the Hungarian cuisine. There is a substratum of truth in that the Hungarian cuisine relies on the Holy-Trinity of fats-onion-paprika – but at least they form the basic backbone of it.
A foreigner can immediately spot the sour-cream-love of the average Hungarian. Firstly, there are several dishes which must contain sour cream, but apart from them we usually put sour cream on every dish “without reason”. It can be chicken paprika, lángos or runner beans soup – but who has not eaten a good bread with sour cream and onion for dinner yet? It is also essential on the top of the quark cheese noodles and the quark cheese pancakes – the latter ones lead to our next point.
Just like sour cream, the typical bumpy, thin quark cheese is also a national peculiarity, something like this hardly appears outside the Carpathian basin. So the autoletic, premeditated and constant usage of this kind of cheese is suspicious already in itself, but it is nothing compared to the fact that we also put sugar in it… and chocolate at the top… thus creating the Túró Rudi.
The edible parts of animals usually stop at the height of the legs or wings for a distinguished Western-European. They are gradually shocked by the chicken leg or gizzard put into the soup by granny – but this is nothing compared to a good kidney and brains, or rooster testicle stew! Of course, the list can go on with the stew of trotters, the pig pudding with pettitoes, and the gizzard stew.
Bacon is also known westwards of Hungary, but many foreigners cannot cope with how Hungarians can eat the meatless, 100 per cent fats bacon. The bread and dripping or the greaves do not better the situation.
Dishes of the pig feasts and disznótor deserve an own paragraph. Slaughtering a pig is scary itself and it can seem to be a barbaric tradition for some of the ingenuous foreigners, but if it turns out what dishes are made during this event, the shock is guaranteed. Some people even question the existence of roasted blood with onions…
Although most of the courses have “normal” trimmings, Hungarians tend to pick a great slice of bread instead. (There are some radicals who frequently eat pasta or noodles with bread – but this is an extreme example.) Still, it is quite strange for a foreigner that Hungarians normally eat bread with any soup or even dishes that are trimmings in the eyes of foreigners (e.g. steamed or roasted vegetables).
Westwards of Hungary, poppy seeds are almost a taboo in cuisine, because the name of the plant got totally interwoven with the opium it contains and the heroin made of that. Thus, at most, they pour a little of poppy seeds at the top of some pastries as decoration, but that’s all. Poor foreigners do not know that poppy seeds themselves do not involve any danger, so they are usually shocked when hearing about Hungarian dishes of poppy seeds…
It can be said that Hungarians love soups: compared to many other countries Hungarians eat much more of this kind of dish. That’s okay, but, when instead of serving the usual hot salty soup for the first course the waiter serves some cold pink liquid, which is even sweet, foreigners get set back on their heels. They can cope with it better at the end of the courses, as a dessert…
The term “foreigners” is, of course, very generally here, stands mostly for the tourists and students coming from the western countries. Besides, there are many open-minded and flexible people among them, who enjoy discovering the Hungarian cuisine. Just like there are many Hungarians who would never ever taste the kidney and brains, or the rooster testicle stew. Therefore, this list is very subjective, please read it that way.
Featured image: Wiki Commons by Par Tivadar