When we got to Hungary, we honestly had no idea what to expect about the food and really no idea about what type of food we would be eating. To our surprise, we fell in love with the food and it always hit the spot during our fall visit.
Hungarian food is typically on the heartier side and consists of a lot of soups and stews as well as usually meat heavy. One thing Hungary is most famous for is it’s paprika, which you will find sprinkled into so many of the traditional dishes. With that said, they do also have a ton of delicious desserts and sweets.
When visiting Hungary, below are the things you must try:
Goulash. Goulash is the original meat and veggie stew that dates back to the 9th century. Herders would gather and throw in a mixture of veggies, dried meat, and a variety of spices to make dinner on the road. From here, this transformed into the traditional Hungarian (and other central European countries) main dish. Most of the goulash versions we had seemed to be more like soup than stew, with a lighter broth. Every restaurant we visited had their own version and we made it a thing to get a small cup as an appetizer to try all the different recipes.
Stew (really any type) + Galuska/Nokedli. There are so many different types of stews made with pretty much any type of meat you could ever want. Goulash is the main kind of stew that you will find, but there are several others on almost every menu that we looked at. Chicken, Beef, Veal, Pork, Pig’s feet? You name it, you’ll probably find it. In addition to the stew, there will always be a side dish. Hungarians cuisine believes that there are main dishes that must always have a side dish and then others that will never have a side dish. For a side, we mostly found either potatoes or a pasta-like dish called Galuska or Nokedli. We would describe Galuska as the same as German Spaetzle or if you have never had Spaetzle, it’s similar to gnocchi but a little smaller and lighter. After eating it just once, we thought it paired perfectly with a meaty stew. Now if only we could figure out how to make it at home…
Chicken Paprikash. Stewed chicken in a paprika sauce. Pretty much just as the name implies. We thought this was super yummy, and if you can’t decide on something (or understand the rest of the menu), this is a really great thing to get. It is normally served with a side like the stews are, but in my case, I actually had it on a Langos (see below).
Langos. I am still to this day dreaming about eating Langoses. Absolutely one of my favorite things we had the entire trip and we still regret not having more than one. Langos is a fried dough – think similar to a funnel cake but not as sweet. From there you can get a variety of different options, both sweet and savory, but the original langos just has sour cream and shredded cheese. The version I got was stuffed with Chicken Paprikash and then covered in sour cream and shredded cheese. You cannot visit Budapest and not try a Langos (or two)!
Kolbice. Sausage, cheese, and bread. What more could you ask for in a to go lunch?! We spent lunch time in Budapest’s Great Hall, which is home to a variety of food stalls serving all kinds of food. We were debating between the Langos and the Kolbice, but since we had tasted the Langos on the first night, we went the Kolbice route. A Kolbice is a cone made of bread, loaded up with little sauce links. From there, you can choose several different toppings. We went with cheese and crispy onions and we were definitely not disappointed with our choice. The only thing to note – besides its deliciousness – was that the bread part was a little hard to eat. We definitely laughed at each other trying to figure it out and stuff a bread cone in our face.
Kürtőskalács (chimney cake). Funny story, we saw more of these in Prague than we ever did in Budapest, but they are a great Hungarian street food. A sweet dough is wrapped around a stick and then slowly rotated over a fire, until its crispy on the outside. From there, they are stuffed with nutella, caramel, or ice cream. A pastry stuff with nutella?! YES. We also tried the ice cream one, but we would definitely recommend against – it takes away the warm right off the stove-ness of the pastry. You can find these at the Grand Market as well as mostly in the small street markets around the city.
Cream Cake & Dobostorta (Dobos cake). As the first name indicates, cream cake is a butt load of cream loaded between two pastry wafers. Its light, airy, and quite delicious. On the other hand is Dobos cake. This is essentially just a piece of layered cake (sponge cake + chocolate icing), but the unique part is that is topped with a layer of hardened caramel. We stopped by a little shop, Cafe Ruszwurm, (small in size, but definitely not in demand) just beside the Matthias Church up in Buda’s Castle hill area. After walking all through the historic museums and monuments, this was a very welcome pick me up.
Kávé. Hungarian Coffee. This is very different than any other coffee we have ever had and Nate couldn’t get enough of it. Kávé is closer to your typical espresso than normal black american coffee, but can still be mixed with cream or sugar if desired. Overall, we would describe kávé as more bitter, flavorful, and bolder than your average black coffee, but its about half the amount of liquid.
Hungarian Beer/Wine. Like every other country, Hungary has their own beer and wine selections. In the beer category, the most common options are Dreher, Soproni, and Borsodi – although there are now a small selection of dark beers available. Our favorite that we tried was the Soproni below. As for the wine, we actually talked in depth about it here when we went to vineyard shops in Eger.
Pálinka (Dessert Liquor). This is a fruit brandy that is typically served as an after dinner drink. It comes in a variety of different flavors – apricot, plum, pear, apple, cherry, ect. – but all the fruit has to be grown in Hungary for it to be considered a true Pálinka. It is traditionally served at room temperature so that the flavor and smell is more apparent, but after trying it, Nate wished it was served a bit colder. In our book, Pálinka is a great “try once”, but we weren’t completely sold on this post dinner treat.
Gelarto Rosa. Now, this isn’t exactly unique to Hungary, nor would we call it a traditional dish, but it was absolutely a perfect afternoon stop. Gelarto Rosa serves your traditional gelato, but with a special flare – they shape it into a rose. We had read about this place on pinterest and agree that if we had down time, we could get an afternoon snack. Funny enough, this place was super easy to find with the groups of people walking away from the store front carrying the iconic gelato. Just backtrack the crowds steps and boom you are there. There is often a long line, but we took advantage of the time to decide on our version of the perfect three flavored rose.
There are a few other items that Hungary is known for, but we didn’t find the time to try. With that said, we thought very highly of the food and felt like we got a good feel for all things traditional Hungarian – with a few added sweets mixed in.
What is your favorite type of international cuisine?