Traditional Hungarian dishes, developed over thousands of years, are the pride of our Hungary’s rich cultural heritage. We have gathered the ten most typical Hungarian dishes you must try during your stay in the beautiful Budapest.
2. Fisherman´s Soup
9. Chimney Cake
10. Túrós Csusza
Goulash is one of the most famous dishes from the Hungarian culinary repertoire, yet even today there are some misconceptions about the original version of this iconic food. The name derives from the gulyás (herdsmen), who made their rich and fulfilling dish in a kettle over an open fire. Today, a kettle made goulash is considered as the most authentic version of all. Almost every region has its own variety, although a basic goulash is somewhere between a soup and stew, with beef (occasionally veal or pork), carrot, potato, spices and the typical paprika. Goulash has a long history going back to the ninth century, but only during the 1800s did it turn into a national symbol and a tool for preserving Hungarian identity.
Fisherman’s soup holds a similarly prominent place among the national dishes and, like goulash, it is cooked in a kettle over an open fire. The soup is prepared from mixed river fish (carp, catfish, perch or pike) and with a great amount of hot paprika, giving it the characteristic bright red color. It has numerous varieties, with a la Baja (made with thick pasta and mainly carp) or Szeged (made with four types of fish) being the most famous.
Hungarians’ all-time favorite dish is unquestionably lángos: a deep-fried flatbread. Lángos (deriving from the word flame) is served as a satisfying alternative to bread. The origins of lángos are thought to be due to Turkish influence, while others believe it comes from the ancient Romans. What makes it so beloved is the endless varieties of toppings that come with it. It is usually eaten with garlic sauce, cheese, tejföl (sour cream), or even sausages.
Főzelék is one of the healthier choices on the list of Hungarian national dishes and, being practical and easy to make, it is a typically home-cooked dish. There are many variations including potato, peas, beans, lentils and carrot főzelék, all made by simmering and thickened by flour mixed with sour cream.
The prestigious title of ‘Hungary’s favorite cake’ is unanimously given to somlói galuska, a delicious, unmissable dessert made from sponge cake, layered with chocolate cream, walnut kernel, rum and whipped cream on the top.
There is pörkölt and there is paprikás (a stew with a lot of sweet paprika and tejföl). Though the two are usually referred to as absolutely separate dishes, the ingredients, the method of preparations and the outcome are so similar that, broadly speaking, paprikás can be described as a type of pörkölt. The word pörkölt literally means ‘roasted’ and the dish is made from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, pork or liver (varieties depend on the region) cooked with onion, paprika and other spices, resulting in a juicy dish served with another Hungarian gastro-curiosity, the nokedli (egg noodle dumpling). As the old saying goes ‘”It’s not a real Sunday without pörkölt”.
Dobos torte is among the most prominent Hungarian dishes, made from sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.
Stuffed cabbage is quite common in Central Eastern European kitchens, and Hungarian töltött káposzta is made of cooked cabbage (mostly pickled) filled with pork mince, mixed rice and flavored with the unmissable paprika, pepper and tejföl. It is a typical dish around Easter and Christmas time. Although mainly a homemade dish, most Hungarian restaurants keep it on their menu as well.
A special, sweet, cylindered bread made from yeast dough baked over charcoal and coated in plenty of sugar. This is the secret of kürtös kalács, one of Hungary’s most beloved street pastries. ‘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 a traditional Hungarian dish made from a special pasta (csusza) with cottage cheese (very different from its European counterparts) and crispy bacon. All of this is mixed in a pre-heated bowl. It is a perfect one-course main dish that is easy to cook, cheap and filling. If you’re craving something sweeter there’s a version for that, too: instead of the bacon, plenty of powdered sugar is added to the cottage cheese and tejföl cream mix. This version is also common and opens the door to all the further Hungarian pasta specialties, such as poppy seed, walnut or cabbage pastas, loved by locals.
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