Food in Hungary

Hungarian or Magyar cuisine is the cuisine characteristic of the nation of Hungary and its primary ethnic group, the Magyars. Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products and cheeses.

Hungarian cuisine is mostly continental Central European, with some elements from Eastern Europe such as the use of poppy, and the popularity of kefir and quark. Paprika, a quintessential spice and pepper is often associated with Hungary and is used prominently in a handful of dishes. Typical Hungarian food is heavy on dairy, cheese and meats, similar to that of neighboring West Slavic cuisines (Czech, Polish and Slovak). Chicken, pork and beef are very common, while turkey, duck, lamb, fish and game meats are also eaten but not as frequently (mostly on special occasions). Hungary is also famous for the high quality and relatively inexpensive salamis and sausages it produces primarily from pork, but also poultry, beef, etc.

Hungarian National Dishes

Goulash

Goulash is a stew or soup of meat and vegetables usually seasoned with paprika and other spices. Originating in medieval Hungary, goulash is a common meal predominantly eaten in Central Europe but also in other parts of Europe. It is one of the national dishes of Hungary and a symbol of the country.

Its origin traces back to the 9th century to stews eaten by Hungarian shepherds. At that time, the cooked and flavored meat was dried with the help of the sun and packed into bags produced from sheep’s stomachs, needing only water to make it into a meal. Earlier versions of goulash did not include paprika, as it was not introduced to the Old World until the 16th century.

Country Food - Hungary - Goulash
Country Food – Hungary – Goulash

Halászlé

Fisherman’s soup or halászlé is a hot, spicy paprika-based river fish soup, originating as a dish of Hungarian cuisine, a bright-red hot soup prepared with generous amounts of hot paprika and carp or mixed river fish, characteristic for the cuisines of the Pannonian Plain, particularly prepared in the Danube and Tisza river regions. With its generous use of hot paprika, halászlé is arguably one of the hottest (spicy hot) dishes native to the European continent.

Country Food - Hungary - Halászlé
Country Food – Hungary – Halászlé

Chicken paprikash

Chicken paprikash or paprika chicken is a popular dish of Hungarian origin and one of the most famous variations on the paprikas preparations common to Hungarian tables. The name is derived from the ample use of paprika, a spice commonly used in Hungarian cuisine. The meat is typically simmered for an extended period in a sauce that begins with a paprika-infused roux.

Country Food - Hungary - Chicken paprikash
Country Food – Hungary – Chicken paprikash

Pörkölt

Pörkölt is a meat stew which originates from Hungary, but is eaten throughout Central Europe.

Pörkölt is a Hungarian stew with boneless meat, paprika, and some vegetables. It should not be confused with Goulash, a stew with more gravy or a soup (using meat with bones, paprika, caraway, vegetables and potato or different tiny dumplings or pasta simmered along with the meat), or Paprikás (using only meat, paprika and thick heavy sour cream). The traditional Hungarian stews: Pörkölt and Paprikás along with the traditional soup “Goulash” are considered to be the national dishes of Hungary.

Country Food - Hungary - Pörkölt
Country Food – Hungary – Pörkölt

Lecsó

Lecsó is a Hungarian thick vegetable ragout or stew which features explicitly yellow pointed peppers, tomato, onion, salt, and ground sweet and/or hot paprika as a base recipe. The onions and peppers are usually sauteed in lard, bacon fat or sunflower oil. Garlic can also be a traditional ingredient. It is also considered to be traditional food in Czech, Slovak and Croatian cuisine and is also very common in Poland, Austria, and Israel.

Most Hungarian recipes recommend the mildest variant of Hungarian wax pepper, which are in season August–October which is also when field tomatoes are at their best. Other recipes suggest using both bell pepper and banana pepper as alternatives.

Country Food - Hungary - Lecsó
Country Food – Hungary – Lecsó

Töltött káposzta

A cabbage roll is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. It is common to the cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, Eastern Europe, Armenia, Greece, Azerbaijan and Iran, as well as West Asia and Northern China.

Meat fillings are traditional in Europe, often beef, lamb, or pork seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices. Grains such as rice and barley, mushrooms, and vegetables are often included. Pickled cabbage leaves are often used for wrapping, particularly in southeastern Europe. In Asia, seafoods, tofu, and shiitake mushroom may also be used. Chinese cabbage is often used as a wrapping.

Cabbage leaves are stuffed with the filling which are then baked, simmered, or steamed in a covered pot and generally eaten warm, often accompanied with a sauce. The sauce varies widely by cuisine. Always in Sweden and sometimes in Finland, stuffed cabbage is served with lingonberry jam, which is both sweet and tart. In Eastern Europe, tomato-based sauces or plain sour cream are typical. In Lebanon, the cabbage is stuffed with rice and minced meat and only rolled to the size of a cigar. It is usually served with a side of yogurt and a type of lemon and olive oil vinaigrette seasoned with garlic and dried mint.

The version called holishkes is traditionally eaten by Jews on Simchat Torah; stuffed cabbage is described by Gil Marks to have entered Jewish cooking some 2,000 years ago. Recipes vary depending on region; Romanians and northern Poles prefer a savory sauce, while Galicia and Ukraine favor sweet-and-sour, for example.

Country Food - Hungary - Töltött káposzta
Country Food – Hungary – Töltött káposzta

Hortobágyi palacsinta

Hortobágyi palacsinta is a savoury Hungarian Crêpe, filled with meat (usually veal). The meat is prepared as a stew; minced meat is fried with onions and spices like the pörkölt or the paprikás dish, using veal, veal with mushrooms, chicken, or Hungarian sausage.The crêpes are filled with the minced meat, tucking in the ends, and are baked in the oven with a paprika and tejföl (sour cream) sauce, then topped with fresh parsley. Popular serving option in Hungary is rolling the filled crêpes up, or folding them into half and rolling them up on the shorter side. The rolled up crêpes then can be stacked on each other with the sauce poured over them.

The dish does not originate from the Hortobágy National Park region of the Great Hungarian Plain and has nothing to do with Hortobágy. It was originally invented for the 1958 Brussels World Fair. However, some Hungarian recipe books already featured a similar recipe in the 1930s. The name of the food is simply a marketing trick.

Country Food - Hungary - Hortobágyi palacsinta
Country Food – Hungary – Hortobágyi palacsinta

Lángos

Lángos is a Hungarian food speciality, a deep fried dough.

Country Food - Hungary - Lángos
Country Food – Hungary – Lángos

Kürtőskalács

Kürtőskalács (sometimes transliterated kurtosh kalach) is a spit cake specific to Transylvania, Hungary and especially popular in the Hungarian-speaking regions of Romania, more predominantly the Székely Land. Earlier a festive treat, now it is part of everyday consumption.

Kürtőskalács is made from sweet, yeast dough (raised dough), of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar. It is roasted over charcoal while basted with melted butter, until its surface cooks to a golden-brown color. During the baking process the sugar stuck on the kürtőskalács caramelises and forms a shiny, crispy crust. The surface of the cake can then be topped with additional ingredients such as ground walnut or powdered cinnamon.

Country Food - Hungary - Kürtőskalács
Country Food – Hungary – Kürtőskalács

Szilvásgombóc

Knedle (from German knödel, “dumpling”), is a dish of boiled potato-dough dumplings filled with plums, popular in Central and East European countries, especially in Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic. The dish is eaten as dessert, a main dish, or side dish.

Country Food - Hungary - Szilvásgombóc
Country Food – Hungary – Szilvásgombóc

Dobos torta

Dobos torte or Dobosh is a Hungarian sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. The layered pastry is named after its inventor, Hungarian chef József C. Dobos, a delicatessen owner in Budapest. In the late 1800s, he decided to create a cake that would last longer than other pastries in an age when cooling techniques were limited. The round sides of the cake are coated with ground hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, or almonds, and the hardened caramel top helps to prevent drying out, for a longer shelf life.

Country Food - Hungary - Dobos torta
Country Food – Hungary – Dobos torta

Csöröge

Angel wings are a traditional sweet crisp pastry made out of dough that has been shaped into thin twisted ribbons, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The cookies, which originated in Ancient Roman cuisine, are found in several traditional European cuisines. Angel wings are known by many other names and have been incorporated into other regional cuisines (such as American cuisine) by immigrant populations. They are most commonly eaten in the period just before Lent, often during Carnival and on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday before Lent – not to be confused with “Fat Tuesday” (Mardi Gras), the day before the start of Lent (Ash Wednesday). There is a tradition in some countries for husbands to give angel wings to their wives on Friday the 13th in order to avoid bad luck.

Country Food - Hungary - Csöröge
Country Food – Hungary – Csöröge

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