A collage of Budapest, including the river Danube, a multi-layered sponge cake and bottles of Hungarian herbal liqueur

10 things we love about Hungarian cuisine

Levente Koppány, head chef of Turul Project, shares what he loves about the food of the Hungarian capital, Budapest

Want to learn more about Hungarian cuisine? Looking for Hungarian dishes to try? Read our guide below then check out our guide to Hungarian wine.

Turul Project is a Hungarian restaurant and wine bar in the heart of Haringey, London. Starting life as a pop-up in 2018, the menu is inspired by traditional dishes delivered with a contemporary twist. Try silky, rich goose liver parfait with tangy green apple and red cabbage, and luscious chocolate torte with sour cherry sorbet – plus an adventurous list of Hungarian wines and spirits. Head chef Levente Koppány shares his recipe for Lecsó here. 


1. Lecsó

Hungarian lecsó (pronounced leh-choh) is a vegetable stew that combines three of Hungary’s favourite ingredients – peppers, tomatoes and paprika. It can be served as a side, appetiser or a main. Many cooks preserve lecsó by processing it in a hot water bath to be used in the winter months. It’s similar to ratatouille and normally served with bread.

A steel frying pan with a spoon filled with orange and red slow cooked peppers and tomatoes

2. Lángos

These large, deep-fried pieces of dough, crisp at the edges and soft in the centre, are a typical Hungarian street food and a real gem that reminds me of my childhood by the shores of Lake Balaton. The most classic serving of lángos is with garlic, soured cream and cheese. One of the best in Budapest is made by a lovely elderly lady at Klauzál Square Market Hall in District Seven.

Lángos: large, deep-fried pieces of dough

3. Schnitzel

Nose-to-tail eating is common in Hungary, we tend to use all cuts. Downtown Market Hall (Hold Street) in District Five is the best indoor food market in Budapest, you can take tours of the venue and there are tasting events so visitors can familiarise themselves with Hungarian ingredients. On the top floor, Buja Disznó is committed to nose-to-tail pig eating – you could have lungs or ears – but I visit for vast schnitzel with a golden brown crust eaten with potato salad and pickles.


4. Gourmet Festival Budapest

This festival is held once a year in Millenáris Park, Buda, and the next one is in spring 2022. The event provides an opportunity to sample and taste the country’s best restaurants, beers and wines in one location.


5. Cocktail culture

Budapest is home to some award-winning bars, cocktail trends are very similar to London and the rest of Europe, and there are also some local trends. It’s always worth looking out for a pálinka- (a Hungarian fruit brandy) or unicum- (Hungarian amaro) based cocktail if you want a unique experience.

A market stall selling bottles of Hungarian herbal liqueur, unicum

6. Natural wine

Hungary has 22 wine regions cultivating indigenous grapes such as Furmint and Kadarka. Look for wine from Vaskapu Kastély, or Bencze Birtok where wine is aged on lees in ászokhordó – large, squarish barrels. Timea Éless of Szóló in Tokaj makes wine using old techniques, such as aging her wine in amphorae. Natural wine is rarer in Hungary, much of it is sold abroad, and it is worth looking out for.


7. Goulash soup

This is a very popular lunch or dinner option. It’s best when the vegetables are still a bit crunchy, and the meat is slow-cooked until nice and tender. Classically, this is made with a soup base of onions, tomatoes, peppers and, of course, paprika. Paprika can be smoked or unsmoked and both of these can be spicy or sweet.


8. Dobos torte

Invented by Hungarian chef József C Dobos, Dobos torte is a many-layered sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream. The top has a shiny caramel layer and the sides are covered with ground nuts. The Auguszt Patisserie chain serves a very good version – make this your benchmark.

Dobos torte

9. Fermented cucumber

Very on trend now but nothing new to Hungarians. Cucumbers, dill, salt, pepper, garlic and a couple of pieces of bread are loaded into a jar, filled with water and left to ferment for two to three days. These are speedier to make in summer when the warm weather helps the fermentation.


10. Wax peppers

The Hungarian Wax pepper, as its name suggests, originated in Hungary. Also known as the Hungarian Hot Wax pepper, it is easily confused with the similar looking banana pepper but it is much hotter. The Hungarian Wax is harvested before complete maturity, while it is still yellow, and about eight inches long and two inches thick. If left to mature fully, these peppers would turn red, and their heat level would increase considerably.

 

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