There are several misconceptions about the Hungarian cuisine which couldn’t be further from the truth. To clear the air, we’ll give you an introduction to our literally colourful gastronomy and tell you what should not be missing from your culinary bucket list when in Budapest.
We, Hungarians have all heard stereotypes about our cuisine before, most of which are related to our “too generous” use of onion and garlic. As opposed to this unfortunate popular belief, our gastronomy is not a one-trick pony that can only operate on these two bulbous vegetables. Different types of meat, fresh vegetables, fruits, white bread, dairy products and honey are all inevitable parts of the Hungarian kitchen: we have countless veggie and fruit soups, creamy vegetable meals, hot pasta dishes (túrós csusza aka square pasta with curd cheese, sour cream and bacon crumbles is a must-try), and flavourful sauces and meat specialties made from poultry, beef, lamb, pork, fish and wild game.
Considering the wide array of spices that we use, it is technically impossible to have a dull cuisine. Just to mention a few: we add bay leaf (which has a flavour arsenal of more than 50 compounds) to potato sauce, bean and tomato soups and use cumin for cabbage dishes, sausages, sauces and baked pork meals. Tarragon is also our friend, perfect for seasoning poultry, wild game meat, salads, green bean and many more. Parsley is another ingredient that can’t be missing from any Hungarian household; it gives freshness to the chicken soup, and adds a special twist to sides like baked potato and Hungarian hash browns. Of course paprika (grind and fresh) is the apple of our eye, but it is not as dominant in our culinary palette as assumed. It is true though that the dishes we are most proud of, such as paprika chicken, stuffed cabbage, fisherman’s soup and goulash, happen to have this ingredient.
Modern Hungarian Cuisine
Just like most things in life, Hungarian gastronomy also had its ups and downs in the past. The ambassador of contemporary Hungarian cuisine and owner of Andrássy Food & Wine Miklós Forrai shared his thoughts with us not long ago in an interview saying:
“People around the world know that Hungarian gastronomy was very good in the past, and by saying this I refer to years before the turn of the century. If I could, I’d rather erase the 40 years prior to the regime change. Now people are open-minded and curious about what stage the Hungarian gastronomy is at right now. I must say, we are headed to the right direction.”
With that being said, the biggest milestone of the last decade was when Costes became the country’s first Michelin-star restaurant in 2010. It brought with itself a wave of development influencing the whole fine-dining culture of the country as well as bistro kitchen and the local gastronomy in general. At the moment, Hungary has 6 Michelin-star restaurants: Costes, Onyx, Borkonyha, Costes Downtown, Stand and Babel.
Must-have Hungarian meals:
- Hungarian stuffed crepe
- Paprika chicken
- Fisherman’s soup
- Beef goulash
- Square pasta with curd cheese
- Beef vadas
- Jókai-style bean soup
- Somlói sponge cake
- Cottage cheese dumpling
- Gundel crepe
- Rákóczi’s cake
Find recipes and a list of recommended restaurants here!