Hungarian cuisine is most characterized by spiciness and richness. Paprika, whether sweet or spicy, is an essential ingredient used in almost every traditional meal. The dishes and the way they are being prepared are a significant part of the cultural heritage. With this list, we would like to give a glimpse into the Hungarian cuisine and present the most popular or interesting foods and drinks.
Fisherman’s soup is prepared from mixed river fish, like carp, catfish, perch or pike, mixed with the essential spice: hot paprika, which gives its bright red color. There are two main preparation types of this particular dish: Baja and Szeged (two towns near the main rivers – Danube and Tisza). It is often part of the Christmas menu.
Gulyás: It is by far the most famous dish and no wonder why. It perfectly represents everything that Hungarian gastronomy is about: fulfilling, rich and hearty. The most authentic way to prepare it is to use a cauldron, since in the past herdsmen (from where the name derives) did the same thing. Usually the stew is made with beef or pork, carrot, potato, paprika and served alongside with dumplings, but the recipe varies in every region.
Stuffed Cabbage: The cooked (pickled) cabbage is filled with pork mince, rice and seasoned with paprika of course. Usually Hungarians put sour cream on top of it. It is a typical dish around Easter and Christmas time.
Túrós csusza: It is an egg noodle dish, made with quark or cottage cheese and served with crispy bacon. Some people prefer to eat it sweet, so instead of bacon, they put sugar on top. The sour cream is quintessential here as well. It is very much a simple, yet delicious one-course main dish.
Lángos is a deep-fried flat bread, eaten fresh and warm. Usually it is topped with garlic, sour cream and grated cheese, but the varieties are endless. It is considered a true Hungarian street-food, normally sold at fairs, local markets, outdoor events and even at lakes like Balaton or Velencei-tó, so that is why some associate it with summer and vacation.
Somlói galuska: This dessert is made from sponge cake, layered with chocolate cream, walnut kernel, rum and whipped cream on top.
Palacsinta is a thin crêpe-like variety of pancake, filled with jam (apricot, strawberry, plum), sweet quark/cottage cheese or cocoa powder and it is rolled. A well-known version is the Gundel pancake, made with ground walnuts, raisin, candied orange peel, cinnamon, and rum filling, served flambéed in dark chocolate sauce made with egg yolks, heavy cream, and cocoa.
Kürtőskalács: A special sweet spiral cylindered bread made from sweet yeast dough baked over charcoal and coated in plenty of sugar. ‘Chimney cake’, as it is usually referred to, has a sweet, caramelized coating, onto which cinnamon, cocoa, coconut, or chopped walnuts are added. It is mainly sold at different festivals and markets, especially during the Christmas period.
Wines: It has a history dating back to the Kingdom of Hungary. Outside Hungary, the best-known wines are the white dessert wine Tokaji aszú and the red wine Bull’s Blood of Eger. During summertime people like to drink “fröccs”, which is made with white or rosé wine and carbonated water, served cold. We can play with the ratio of wine to water, depending on how much alcohol we prefer.
Pálinka is a traditional fruit spirit (or fruit brandy). Protected as a geographical indication of the European Union, only fruit spirits mashed, distilled, matured and bottled in Hungary, and similar apricot spirits from four provinces of Austria can be called “pálinka”. While pálinka may be made of any locally grown fruit, the most common ones are plums, apricots, apples, pears, and cherries.