Hungry in Hungary

As soon as you arrive in Budapest after a long and tiring journey, the first question you may ask is what you can eat here. There is a wide range of dishes you can choose from and we can assure you that you’ll find something to your liking. Here’s a list of Hungarian must-try dishes you shouldn’t miss during your stay in Budapest:

Entrée

Goulash soup (gulyásleves)

This is a tasty soup and you should definitely give it a try. Although its consistency is a bit thicker than a simple soup, it’s not a ragout. Goulash soup is made of meat, vegetables, lovely little dumplings, some (actually, a lot of) spices and the most essential Hungarian ingredient: paprika powder. This red powder is basically a kind of ground pepper and it gives a unique taste to many dishes.

Fisherman’s soup (Halászlé)

Just like Goulash soup, Fisherman’s soup is pretty popular among the tourists but we Hungarians also love it. Instead of beef this has fish (not fishermen), some vegetables and again, ground paprika. Basically this is a spicy and hot soup and is eaten with huge slices of bread. Everyone has their own secret recipe therefore chances are that you will never ever find two identical fisherman’s soups.

Újházi Chicken Soup (Újházi tyúkhúsleves)

This soup, again, has everything that one could ever desire when it comes to eating soup. I am serious here: it has delicious chicken meat, vegetables such as carrot, onion, celery, mushroom, peas, kohlrabi, tomato, paprika, garlic and I stop here because I don’t want to make a long paragraph. So these are nicely cooked together and the result is a rich soup with some nice pasta, meat and veggies with a beautiful golden color.

Main dishes

Chicken paprika (Csirkepaprikás)

This is a chicken stew with lots of onions, tomatoes, paprika (both the vegetable and the already well-known spice) and a couple of spoonful of sour cream in the end to make it creamy. This dish has everything that you desire: nicely cooked meat and a rich creamy sauce served with dumplings.

Beef stew (Marhapörkölt)

Well, I will go with this: this is a stew made of beef. To add more, I would say this is one of the best Hungarian dishes. The lovely ground paprika is added to sautéed chopped onion and you add water, beef and vegetables to the whole thing and after a couple hours what you get is a thick, spicy stew with soft meat and lots of flavors. I can only recommend it.

Hortobágy pancakes (Hortobágyi palacsinta)

Although we love pancakes (not the thick American ones but the French crépes – please don’t read it out loud) sweet, we enjoy making a salty pancake dish such as this one. The main idea is that after you make the pancakes you fill them with cooked ground chicken meat (already seasoned, obvi) and the thickened sauce in which the chicken was prepared.  Then you make lovely bags from the pancakes and top them with a little sauce and sour cream. These are eaten as appetizers but I think they are a bit heavier than just a small dish so if you are scared that you get full soon, have them as a main dish.

Stuffed cabbage / Cabbage roll (Töltött káposzta)

We, Hungarians usually eat this dish at Christmas. The structure is the following: you make meatballs (ground meat, rice, eggs, salt and pepper) and you wrap them in cabbage leaves. Then you put these cabbage bags in a pot with pickled cabbage and smoked sausage. It is served with sour cream on top and it is just right for cold wintery evenings.

Túrós csusza

This is a very traditional and simple Hungarian savory pasta dish. Usually it is made of homemade pasta but the one that you buy from the shop is also good, obviously. When you cook and drain the pasta, you add crumbled quark (a dairy product kind of similar to cottage cheese), fried, crispy bacon and a blob of sour cream on top.

Catfish stew with túrós csusza

This dish is really heavy but if you are into fish and you happened to like the previous dish, you will simply love this one. The recipe goes like this: you put some flour on the catfish fillets and fry them in oil for one minute on each side. Then you also fry the onion, garlic and paprika and add the ground paprika, tomato and water. When they are cooked you put the fish back in the pot and cook the whole thing for 5 more minutes. You thicken it with a sour cream-flour combination and ta-dam: it’s done. And the side dish is the above mentioned túrós csusza.

Steet food

Lángos

I have seen so many translations for lángos that I don’t even know what to write here. They have been called flatbread or even scones (I have no idea how that one came up…). Anyway, this specialty is a deep fried (let’s just go with) flatbread made of only flour, water, salt and yeast. Simple, yet amazing! After deep frying it, we usually put some garlic oil, a LOT of sour cream and EVEN MORE grated cheese on top just to make it heart-friendly. I absolutely love this dish because it is easy to make, and if you are lazy, you can get it anywhere in Hungary.

Desserts

Somlói sponge cake (Somlói galuska)

My personal favorite, the Somlói sponge cake is a light and super delicious dish made of sponge cakes, apricot jam, chocolate and vanilla sauce, raisins soaked in rum, walnuts and finally, whipped cream. I mean what could possibly go wrong here? Exactly: nothing! If you spend only an hour in the city, please go to a restaurant, sit down, order this amazing dessert and then your visit was worth it.

Dobos cake (Dobos torta)

This layer cake is really popular in Hungary. You can’t take a walk without seeing these palatable creations in the windows of cake shops. Besides being delicious, Dobos cake is also addictive, so watch out! The soft sponge cake layers are glued to each other with cocoa cream and there is a layer of caramelized sugar on top. If you have a sweet tooth, this cake is right up your street!

Gundel pancakes (Gundel palacsinta)

Again, this is not the American pancake but the thinner version from France but this time it is filled with ground walnuts, raisins (soaked in rum) and is topped with dark chocolate sauce and served flambéed.

Aranygaluska

The word ‘arany’ means golden and ‘galuska’ means dumpling. Lovely balls are made of yeast dough and then they are rolled into melted butter and placed in a tray. You sprinkle a lot of ground walnut and sugar on them and then bake the whole thing. When done, you put some balls on a plate and top it with vanilla custard. Even if you are on a diet you should try this heavenly dish.

Chimney cake (Kürtős kalács)

Although I already wrote about my favorite dessert, I should mention another treasure, the only thing that I cannot resist. Like ever in my life. This is the king of street food desserts: kürtős kalács.

This hot stuff can be bought at any fair or bigger events but nowadays there are permanent little pop-up shops (or rather bodegas) on the streets where you can buy these daily.

Imagine a sweet yeasty dough that is spun into a long, thin strip which is then wrapped around a giant rolling pin. Then the whole tube of this dough is covered in granulated sugar and put above charcoal till the sugar caramellizes and makes a nice golden-brown, crispy layer. When done, kürtős kalács looks like a steaming chimney but most probably tastes better than one. Additional ingredients can be added onto the crispy sugar layer such as vanilla, cocoa powder, cinnamon or crushed walnut but my personal favorite is just the plain, sugary kürtős kalács. I’m going to get one now and you should do the same.