Often overlooked as too greasy or too fatty, Hungarian food has more flavor and
appeal than most people think. The very first Hungarian nomads are the root of
flavor and food in Hungary. Traveling across vast lands with only dried meat cubes
and onions, water was added to make what is now known as hearty and delicious
Hungarian goulash. Modern-day Hungarians still eat this dish, having perfected
it over time. Though Hungarian goulash is famous around the world, there is much
more to Hungarian cuisine than this renowned soup.
Traditional Hungarian food actually originates from several different ethnic cooking styles fused together to create an eclectic and tasty form of its own. During the rule of King Matthias, whom the Matthias Church in Budapest is named for, he was married to Queen Beatrice who was Italian. Queen Beatrice introduced King Matthias to Italian cooking and he in turn introduced it to his countrymen. In this period of Hungarian history, cooking was becoming a fine art rather than just a necessity.
During the sixteenth century, the invasion of the Turks brought along distinctive cooking traditions including the now celebrated spice paprika and flaky phyllo pastry. The Turks also educated the Hungarians in the ways of stuffed peppers and eggplants, two dishes that are very prevalent in Hungarian cuisine today, and they introduced coffee into the country. The third paramount influence on food in Hungary came from the Habsburg monarchy of Austria during the seventeenth century. When the Austrian’s ruled, both Austrian and German cooking techniques swayed Hungarian cuisine and cooking habits. From Austria’s influence came Hungary’s much-loved pastries and cakes.
Paprika is by far the best known of all the spices used in traditional Hungarian food. It flavors a whole slew of distinct country dishes. It is so revered that during the Autumn months one of the famous attractions are the hundreds of strings of paprika hanging across the whitewashed walls of local houses in Kalocsa, a small village along the Danube where many beaches attract thousands of tourists on holidays. Around the beaches there are often stalls and small restaurants selling all kinds of Hungarian food. These smaller places are a great way to experience Hungarian home cooking at its best. Rich cakes, thick soups, and meaty stews, along with fresh cucumber salads and other summer foods are offered.
Some of the other popular food in Hungary includes noodles, cabbage, onions, caraway seeds, and potatoes. Both green peppers and cabbages stuffed with a rice and meat mixture are very popular and found in many restaurants in Hungary. Dumplings filled with a large variety of stuffings are also a top favorite with tourists and locals. One of the most versatile foods is called palacsinta, a thin pancake layered with many different kinds of fillings and then folded or rolled up.
Though the food in Hungary can seem heavy if you’re not used to this type of cooking, don’t hesitate to give it a try. The best way to sample the many tasty dishes around the country is to eat slowly. This can be difficult because Hungarians will always insist that you eat more, and more, and more. They pride themselves on serving up an authentic and filling meal. They refuse to let anyone walk away hungry. If you are invited to someone’s house while on vacation, be sure to eat everything on your plate and, if you can, take another helping of any dish you enjoy to help your host feel more at ease. After trying all of the many flavorful and delectable dishes, you will walk away loving Hungary and the unique style and way of cooking and baking.