Food is something common and universal, irrespective of gender, class, religion or life choices. Cuisines from all over the world are representations of the culture, the land and the heritage, and travelers will testify to the insight the food provides into the native mind.
So one day, if you’re backpacking across Europe and find yourself in Hungary; it’s important for you to know exactly what food you should eat first and why.
Apart from the dessert, all the main Hungarian dishes are full of spices and heavy on the paprika. That’s because Hungarian cuisine lays special emphasis on the spice, but the spice is balanced out with all the servings on the side, like nokedli, that add the base to the rich sauces made with black peppercorn, caraway, dill, coriander, marjoram, horseradish, black olives and other such ingredients.
There are always so many things that you feel like trying that it can get quite overwhelming. To make it easier, here’s your guide to the five dishes you definitely need to try, and that you should not leave Hungary without eating.
The Italian cuisine is famous for their pasta and the Hungarian for their goulash. This is a traditional and centuries old dish made of warm soup or stew cooked with meat, vegetables and seasoned to perfection with paprika and with coarse salt and pepper and everything nice. It’s a meal prepared in slow-cookers and slaved over for hours, but we’re lucky that’s’ where all the fine and dine comes in and saves the day.
Then comes the Paprikash, which takes the name from its extensive use of sweet paprika in the flavouring of chicken strips in a Paprika-infused roux for long periods of time. The food hack here is to think, spicy Hungarian steaks. Cooked to perfection, drizzled with olive oil and served with a side of nokedli (dumpling-like boiled egg noodles) or tagliatelle, which are boiled ribbon noodles, this dish comes in a variety suited for its intended taste pallets. The vegetable lovers may add greens, bell peppers and tomatoes, while the not-so-vegetable-lovers may do without.
On special occasions, Hungarians usually have their famous Fisherman’s soup, or natively known as halászlé. The soup base is made with fish trimmings, fresh carp heads, bones, skin and fins, water, salt and vegetables. Once the base has been cooked and the court bouillon strained, hot ground paprika and carp fillets, roe and coral are added only ten minutes before serving to ensure the flavor is rich and the experience enjoyable to the fullest. It is a bright red soup, served hot, and definitely not for the faint of taste and tongue.
- Hortobágyi palacsinta
Now we get to the really interesting part. You can’t go to Hungary and leave without trying their famous pancakes. But then again, these aren’t your average pancakes either. Hortobágyi palacsinta is a savoury pancake filled with a stew of some type of minced meat, usually veal, with fried onions, mushrooms, chicken or Hungarian sausage. This two-dimensional meat experience is seasoned with spices like pörkölt, or again, paprika, a sour cream sauce and fresh parsley.
- Esterházy torta
Why go anywhere and leave without trying the desserts? Hungarian dessert specialty is an almond and butter cream cake, which takes its name from Prince Paul III Anton Esterházy de Galántha, a member of the Esterházy dynasty. This cake is practically Hungarian royalty as if you needed another reason for trying it. It’s made with heaps of butter cream spiced with either cognac or vanilla, with four to five layers of almond meringue or more commonly known as macaroon dough. The torte (cake) is iced with a fondant glaze and garnished with patterns of drizzling chocolate stripes. Of course, there are other cakes, for example, the sponge cake served with crystallized fruits but nothing gives you traditional cuisine like this almond and butter cream cake.
The best part about travelling is that a combination of different cuisines is not only possible but also encouraged. Imagine replacing the sides of all these savory dishes and trying them with falafel; a deep-fried doughnut or patty made from ground chickpeas and fava beans or a wrapped sandwich acting as a pocket for the gravy and flatbread. Falafel is a middle-eastern dish with Arabic origins, drizzled with hot sauce and tahini-based sauces. The simplicity of its taste and the wholeness with which it is cooked is a perfect anchor to tie together all the roller coaster of spices that is the Hungarian cuisine. You’ll find the best falafel in Dubai but falafel food is also easily available in Hungary as well. So the next time you find yourself within reach of Hungarian cuisine, don’t hesitate to try it out.
Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyzes real estates and restaurants with respect to pricing and people involved and can express her opinions in an unhesitant, engaging manner.