As far as I know, Hungary isn’t seen as a foodie mecca such as France or Italy are. But in this post I’m going to argue that it should be.
Hungary is home to probably the best and most multivariate spice on Earth (paprika); it does delicious things with cheese you’d never have considered (inside a chocolate bar!?); and, with specialities including fried dough (lángos) and noodles that are halfway between pasta and dumplings (nokedli), it is truly a carb-lover’s paradise. Which is perfect for lining your stomach before drinking all the delicious, underrated local wine and liquors on offer. Below is a list of my five favourite foods that I discovered in Budapest.
What could be better than fried dough? I’ll tell you what – fried dough topped with sour cream, garlic and cheese. And that’s just the basic option. Lángos are a quick, cheap and freshly made street food that you can find at any market in Budapest. Your first bite will be incredible; your last might be laced with regret. But it’s worth it! This was the first thing we ate after arriving in Hungary and it was exactly what we needed. We bought our lángos from one of three stalls selling them in Jozsef Nador Square, and ate them sat on the grass.
Paprikás and nokedli
Paprikás (also known as paprikash) is one of the most delicious meat casseroles in the world, thanks to its warming combination of paprika and sour cream. Its gorgeousness is complemented and equalled by its typical accompaniment of nokedli (known elsewhere as spätzle or spaetzle), which, for the sadly uninitiated, are small, squidgy, noodle-like dumplings.
Steve had a rich veal paprikás at Vörös Postakocsi, while I had a creamier chicken paprikás at Rustico. Both were delicious. Steve’s may have slightly edged past mine, however, thanks to the addition of cottage cheese to his nokedli!
Lecsó has a similar paprika sauce base to paprikás, but is made even tastier by the addition of chunky bell peppers, tomatoes and onions. It’s a vegetable ragout that’s not vegetarian, due to the vegetables being (deliciously) fried in smoked bacon lard! At Vörös Postakocsi I believe I tasted lecsó in the best way possible: as a thick sauce on top of juicy mangalitsa pork ribs. I was in heaven!
Everyone loves pancakes, right? And in Hungary they are often served as this unique and sumptuous dessert. Palacsinta are slightly thicker than French crepes, which allows them to hold richer fillings. Which is necessary when served as gundel: a soft rolled crepe, stuffed with a sweet paste made with ground walnuts, raisins and rum, and covered in chocolate sauce. It’s common to throw some citrus in too, finishing off a dessert that’s indulgent while being neither too sweet nor too heavy. At the Rustico restaurant I had delicious a gundel palacsinta that was served with orange slices and covered with powdered sugar.
This is probably the weirdest dish on the list but trust me – it is unexpectedly nice! Túrógombóc are cottage cheese dumplings, typically coated in breadcrumbs and served with cream and powdered sugar. The ones we had at Bistro 0.75 came coated with crushed walnuts and drizzled with strawberry sauce. To me, they tasted like a lighter, airier type of cheesecake – a little sweet, a little sour, and a deliciously unique dessert.
To conclude, traditional Hungarian dishes may not be the most attractive, sophisticated or healthy foods out there – but they’ll definitely give your insides a big, warm hug. And who can argue with that?
See my other Budapest blog posts for sightseeing around the two sides of Budapest, Budapest’s grandest cafes, the illustrated hostel and original ruin bar, and taking the Children’s Railway to the Buda Hills.