Once you have sampled some good old hearty Hungarian food - you will never look back! They have many signature and traditional dishes such as goulash and their use of spices such as paprika is what makes this cuisine so unique.
A taste of Hungary will leave you wanting more and bringing elements of their culinary heritage back to your very own kitchen.
Characteristics of Hungarian Food
One word of warning before we answer this question - when you travel to Hungary, leave your diets at home! The Hungarians love to eat good hearty meals, that can at times be heavy for those used to salad-picking.
The fatty parts on meat that you so carefully remove before cooking would be frowned on it this country - because they know well that the fat brings with it a rich and full taste to dishes such as goulash.
You won't be thinking about the calories though once the food enters your mouth - rich flavors and aromas masking any issues about squeezing into that dress the following day!
Goulash and paprika are the first things that come to mind when we think about Hungarian food - but you would be wrong to think it is the start and end to all Hungarian cooking.
Hungary is fortunate to have a land whose soil makes it easy to cultivate a wide variety of vegetables and whose climate allows for many fruits and nuts - all of which can be found abundantly in the Hungarian kitchen.
Onions and garlic form the basis of many meals and sour cream, yogurt and cottage cheese are served along with main dishes or desserts.
Common Ingredients In Hungarian Cooking
Here is a list of some of the most common ingredients used in Hungarian recipes:
Paprika, Lard/Butter,Eggs, Vinegar and Pickled Foods,Sugar,Apricots and Prunes, Poppy Seeds, Sour Cream, Walnuts and Hazelnuts, Smoked Bacon, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Dumplings/Pastries, Potatoes, Pork & Beef, Onion and Garlic.
What most Hungarian dishes have in common though is the following ingredients - meat, onions, paprika and sour cream. Many will add potatoes and carrots too, to make the meal more filling.
Paprika shows up in many of the Hungarian foods and more traditional recipes - but it doesn't always mean that a dish will be very hot and spicy. Hungarian sweet Paprika
is used more than the Hot Paprika
, especially in restaurants frequented by tourists.
Hot sides such as chilies may be offered to those who like it hotter.
What Has Influenced Hungarian Food?
Many of the traditional dishes you can try in Hungarian cooking will have their roots in the days when the Magyars led a nomadic lifestyle, relying on their livestock as a source of food.
This suggests why pork, beef and other meats are a popular main ingredient in dishes such as goulash, stews and soups. Traditionally, such dishes would have been slow-cooked over the fire until all of the ingredients had fused together, resulting in a wonderfully unique taste.
Many new ingredients were brought into Hungary in the 15th century - due to the influence of King Matthias, who introduced western culinary sophistication into the Hungarian table. Garlic became increasingly evident in meals, as did onion, nutmeg and the use of fruits to compliment the flavor of meats.
Turks brought new flavors, spices and foreign cooking methods into the the Hungarian cuisine, being the paprika one of those ingredients.
Hungarian cuisine is represented by very specific dishes such as the world famous Goulash which was devised in this region. Nevertheless, there is a long list of Hungarian traditional dishes that Hungarians love and feel proud of them. Below you can find some.
Goulash. The real Hungarian Goulash is actually a soup and not a stew as many people think.
There are many versions of it but each region within Hungary will make claims that theirs is the most authentic or original - it is best just to try as many varieties as possible, they will all be mouthwatering!
Chicken Paprika is one of the most popular Hungarian dishes among locals. It is a tasteful chicken dish basically made with Hungarian paprika, onion, lard and sour cream; it is served with galuska dumplings.
Páprikas Csirke is very easy to make, so if you want to cook a Hungarian dish, this is a basic meal you can start with and get wonderful results.
Stuffed Cabbage (Töltött káposzta) is another delicious traditional Hungarian dish. The cabbage rolls are made with ground lean pork, sliced smoked pork, sour cabbage leaves and fresh cabbage.
Although, I have tried some other variants of stuffed cabbage, many countries have their own, I love the Hungarian version of it!, it is exquisite!.
Roast Goose Liver
Roast Goose Liver or Hungarian Foie Gras has been well known in Hungary and abroad for more than 500 years. It is a real delicious traditional treat.
There are many ways of cooking foie gras but the classic Hungarian roast foie gras served cold in its own lard with red onions beats them all.
For desserts, Somloi galluska, crepes and an extensive variety of strudels ( filled with fresh fruits such as apples
and cherries, cottage cheese, cabbage, rice as well as poppy seeds) are the favorite choices.
But they do love their pastries and most Magyars have a sweet tooth - they even say that Budapest is a rival to Vienna in the sweet department!
This is just a small sample of the wide variety of Hungarian specialties you can taste once you are here!
Have you already been to Hungary? Did you try any of these dishes? How did you like it?. Let us know, we would love to hear your experience with Hungarian food.
Hungarian Cooking Books
There are hundreds of cooking books out there where you can find lots of Hungarian recipes. However, I have found out that Culinaria Hungary brings not only a great and varied selection of recipes divided by regions but clear explanations about the use and history of traditional ingredients.
Recipes are easy to follow and beautifully illustrated. The author accompanies the recipes with interesting stories and cultural information about the dishes and Hungarians. Culinaria Hungary contains more than 150 recipes of soups, pastries, meats and all traditional Hungarian recipes. If you are looking for a Hungarian cooking book that brings you closer to real Hungary cuisine, this book is an excellent choice.