Hungary is a country with a very rich culinary tradition. It prides itself in its cuisine, and this is reflected in the many Hungarian blogs devoted to food or those that mention local dishes and wines at any given opportunity. Here's a little selection that we've found with just a quick browsing.
The blog Food and Beverages in Hungary reviews food and beverage festivals around Hungary, and often offers typical Hungarian recipes to its readers. One of the latest recipes posted is for a pastry filled with cottage cheese called túrós batyu (the word túró means cottage cheese and turós batyu means cheesecloth), pictured below.
Nóra Schüttler, the author of Food and Beverages in Hungary, also blogs about food at Hungary Starts Here, a portal with all sorts of practical information about Hungary. In her latest post for the portal blog, she described a folk festival and fair (including a video) and offered yet another delicious recipe for a traditional Hungarian dish: Lecsó (pronounced as: leh-choh).
Lecsó, pictured below, is a simple dish “made from paprika, tomato and onion, sometimes also contains sausage and some rice or egg.” Nora describes it as follows:
Originally a Serbian dish, it has been fully assimilated into the Hungarian kitchen like the Hungarian stuffed pepper. This simple pepper and tomato ragout is served both as a side dish and as an appetizer in Hungary. It is an essential component of many Hungarian dishes.
A preserved version is also used in recipes as a substitute for fresh tomatoes and peppers when they are not in season.
Another very popular Hungarian food blog is Chew.hu, where many recipes can also be found. The latest ones, for example, are Báránypörkölt, a lamb stew from the Upper-Tisza region, and Almaleves, an apple soup. Chew also reported that last weekend two competing wine festivals were running in Budapest, recommending the Badacsony Wine Festival because not only “the Badacsony region are pretty darn good – look out for the signature kéknyelű” but also because the festival “which started life as a standard wine and cheese festival, now features some of Budapest's finest restaurants.”
Another wine festival that took place in May, the Somló Spring Festival, was reviewed by the The Hungarian Wine Guide. The blog described this festival, which takes place in the town of Somlóvásárhely, as follows:
All ages and all types of people were present: old ladies from the neighbouring villages sat in the tent quitely sipping their drinks while staring at the stage to check the appearance of a folklore dance group, there were families wandering around, kids riding horses, and some young folks trying to get a bit drunk. I really couldn't spot any of the urban yuppies here who usually frequent these types of events. And no foreigners either.
It was charming and looked more like a big family reunion in a family where winemaking tradition’s got its roots from times when Juhfark was not yet recognised as a standalone grape.
Mangalica Festival in Budapest, photo by Carolyn Bánfalvi from Chew.hu
Hungarians love their pork, as Buda Bites author Carolyn Bánfalvi explains:
Since I’ve been living in Budapest I’ve been eating more pork than I ever have before in my life. And the pork here is great. It’s definitely the meat of choice, and meat from the Mangalica pig–a heritage breed that nearly died out during the Communist-era–is the choicest kind of pork.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that Andy at The Hub Blog recently devoted two posts to describe a traditional Hungarian pig killing that he attended. According to him, the regular schedule is:
Awakening (at 5 o'clock), pálinka [Hungarian brandy], killing the pig, pálinka, breaming the pig, pálinka, breakfast (fried?/baked? blood with onion), stripping the pig, pálinka, lunch (lots of meat), pálinka, making black pudding, liverwurst, sausage etc., pálinka and wine.
He describes a moment of the hours-long pig killing:
I gulp down some wine, look at my watch, then step over a box of pig’s head (ears, snout, face etc.), and around a bucket of fresh, chopped up skin. Five minutes earlier, our friend Támas had picked up a piece of this, tossed salt onto it, and popped it into his mouth. ’Try it. It’s goood’ he’d said, holding one out to me. Woof! Politely, I’d declined.
However, in spite of it, he says: “I still like meat, and I’m still fine with the fact that to eat it, you have to kill an animal.”
If (Mangalica) pork is the meat you cannot miss, pastries from a cukrászdá (a mix of coffee house and sweet shop) are an equally important Hungarian culinary institution. However, as the blog Dumneazu pointed out, there are currently very few old style honest cukrászdá left in Budapest:
Say you are slogging about downtown Budapest on a busy afternoon, and the caffeine and cream cake urge hits you. Now, this being Budapest, there ought to be some kind of Hapbsburg-centric old fashioned coffee house nearby waiting to serve up espressos and little cakes in a historic setting full of stuffed chairs and newspaper stands. One small problem: such places are pretty much gone. The city is full of cafes, but most are simply… bars… The old kavéhazák -coffee houses- so often touted in the tour books, didn't weather the changes of the early 90s well. Most closed, or were turned into snobbier, pricier Disney-Monster coffee houses.
But there's the Auguszt Cukrászda , which according to Dumneazu is almost an anachronistic place, “an island of rest” that has the best traditional kréme cakes in the world:
The Auguszt is the last bastion of the classic Hungarian pastry known as the krémes. Krémes are simply vanilla cream cakes encased in flakey pastry with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. Something so simple, however, is prone to bastardization, and most of the krémes you find around Budapest use some kind of gelatin in their cream. Not so the Auguszt. This is the same krémes that my grandparents knew.
Another favourite café of Dumnezu‘s is the Fröhlich Cukrászda, one of the last kosher cafés in Budapest:
At Fröhlich you get exceptionally good, light Hungarian pastry in a kosher version. No lard in the flour, for one thing, and often prepared without milk or eggs so that the result is pareve and can be eaten with any meal. […]
Most come because Fröhlich is the social hub of the neighborhood. And also the home of the world's best flodni. Flodni is considered the emblematic Hungarian Jewish cake: a triple sandwich of nuts, poppy seeds, and apple in a pite dough cover.
And if you're worried about getting fat while in Hungary, Dumneazu adds a little piece of advice:
Now, here's a dirty little secret about Budapest pastry houses: whatever you eat there can count as a healthy meal. Just eat two or three cakes. Every day thousands of elderly Budapest grandma types in fancy purple hats devour multiple cakes and call it a well balanced lunch.