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Hungarian Cuisine

Typical Hungarian drinks

Whether if it is a glass of noble wine or a strong spirit after a heavy meal, Hungarians like to drink, and alcohol plays an important role among the delicates of the Hungarian cuisine. Furthermore, it is not only a cure for a good mood, but also considered to be a medicine: it helps digesting, relieves pain, and drives away infection.

The thousand-year past of Hungarian vine-growing and vine-making is founded upon ancient eastern traditions brought by the Magyars themselves. It is thanks to generations of wine-makers that such unique wines have been created as the Bull’s Blood of Eger and Szekszárd, and Tokaj’s aszú, hailed by connoisseurs and professionals alike as the king of wines and wine of kings. Come to Hungary and discover what it’s like to be king and drink a wine fit for a king!

Pálinka is a traditional part of Hungarian hospitality, so no visitor of Hungary should even dream of escaping a shot! Mind you, whoever has heard of the Hungarians’ 'firewater', or whose friends have already visited Hungary and spoken about it, will not be trying to avoid but rather  to seek out the experience; to try out this most Hungarian of drinks, pálinka. The name pálinka can only be used for those products distilled from 100% fruit – that is, without added alcohol or artificial aromas – and with an alcohol content of at least 37.5%.

Unicum: For over 150 years, a blend of 40 Hungarian herbs has been used to create Unicum. This is a bitter liqueur and can be drunk as an aperitif or after a meal, thus helping digestion. The recipe is held in secrecy of the Zwack family!

Typical Hungarian dishes

The simplest way to learn a nation is said to be through its cuisine. This country, but also its capital city has a number of flavours: different in East and West, North and South, or regarding Budapest; in Óbuda, Buda and Pest. What is Hungarian cuisine like?

Hungarian food is often spicy. It frequently uses paprika (and paprika powder, hot or 'sweet'), black pepper and onions. The best paprika comes from Kalocsa, or Szeged. Potatoes are also commonly used in many dishes. Hungarians are passionate about their soups, desserts and stuffed pancakes, with fierce rivalries between regional variations of the same dish, e.g. the fish soups cooked differently on the banks of Hungary's two main rivers: the Danube (Duna) and the Tisza. However, there is no doubt, that the most famous 'halászlé' (fish soup ~ 'hul-us-lay'), made of fish and paprika, is cooked in Szeged, in the Southern part of Hungary, along the River Tisza.

Pörkölt ('pur-colt'): This main course is usually prepared of beef, pork, or even chicken (in this case it is called 'paprika chicken'). Chopped meat is added to fried onions, and after some stirring seasoned with Hungarian paprika powder, salt and pepper. Some water comes next into the pan, followed by low-fire cooking for 1-2 hours. The result: delicious, juicy meat-dish. You can have it with noodles, or cooked potatoes, but students usually eat it with white bread and pickles (e.g. sour cucumber).

Gulyás ('goo-yash'): This is similar to pörkölt, but it is a soup. However, since it is very rich, we eat it as a main course, usually with bread. It all starts as pörkölt, but then, halfway, some vegetables come into the picture: carrots, parsley, celery, and also cubed potatoes. Before the end, some home-made noodles get cooked into it, too. Gulyás is prepared differently, according to region. It can be made with cabbage, or rice, or beans, and sour cream. But not out of chicken!

Paprikás Krumpli (Paprika Potatoes ~ 'pop-re-kash crewmp-lee'): This is a low-budget dish, and very simple. Fried onions are sprinkled generously with Hungarian paprika powder, topped with cubed potatoes. Water is added into the pot, so the potatoes can cook, but the real flavour is given by the Hungarian sausage (the best is 'Gyulai kolbász'/Gyula sausage) or smoked bacon, added after the veggies. Ready? We hope you have some bread and pickles, too!

More information:
A Taste of Budapest

Last modified: 2018.11.30.