Bites on the Beach

The scorching summertime weather is most bearable when you’re next to or (even better) in a large body of water. There’s a myriad of rivers, lakes and open-air swimming pools to choose your source of refreshing coolness from when you’re in Hungary, but regardless of the type of water you’re floating in, one thing is sure: you’ll find all of the following waterside favorites on the closest eating establishment’s menu.

Let’s start off with something sweet and light: waffles (or gofri, as they’re named in Hungarian) are hot with the crowds mainly because you can do so much with them – douse your waffle in chocolate, spray it with whipped cream, drizzle it with maple syrup, throw a couple of scoops of ice cream or lay slices of strawberry and banana on top of it. Any way you twist the combination of the toppings, a waffle for dessert or as a snack will be hard to resist, and it definitely won’t leave you unsatisfied.

Hake (hekk) is one of Hungary’s most peculiar dishes when it comes to beach cuisine: as a country with no sea access, this Atlantic Ocean native was introduced to the buffets of Lake Balaton in the 1960s, and – surprisingly enough – has since become a staple item on menus all over the country. Hake is traditionally served gutted, with head, tail and fins lopped off, then deep fried in crisp salty batter, and garnished with pickles and mayo. Its skeleton can be easily removed from the firm white flesh, making it a popular choice for those who otherwise wouldn’t bother with bony fishes. Another greasy goodness of the Hungarian cuisine is lángos (from the Hungarian word for flame, láng), a round-shaped deep fried flatbread traditionally made from leftover dough, besmeared by garlic water, spread with cold and scrumptious sour cream, and topped with delicious grated Emmenthaler cheese. The result is a heavy, pizza-like meal, crispy softness and oil-soaked hands, but together with a chilled rosé spritzer, it’s one of the best things that can happen to you at the beach. Especially if you’re trying to deal with a hangover! Corn on the cob is the ultimate summer treat: it’s easy to make, has an amazing water content (so it helps you stay hydrated in those sizzling temperatures), and it’s chock full of vitamins and necessary minerals. Health benefits of the boiled-salted favorite include the prevention of cardiovascular problems, reduced stress and sense of fatigue, improved concentration and a heightened sense of attention. It’s relatively high sugar and carbohydrate content is vastly compensated by the benefits that corn on the cob brings to the table, so don’t be afraid to ask for a basketful of it the next time you two meet!

Hungary’s version of the famous crêpe, palacsinta, is sold at every lido in the country: palacsintas are paper-thin pancakes that are rolled up with sweet fillings such as ground nuts, chocolate, fruit jam, or sweet cottage cheese, or folded into triangles. One of the most beloved varieties is the Gundel palacsinta, invented by Károly Gundel, filled with ground walnuts, raisins and rum, and topped with dark chocolate sauce.

Jó étvágyat!