Hungarian Food Hungarian Cuisine

Hungary is one of the most interesting countries in Europe with its rich history, unusual language with very little resemblance to English, touching your very soul gypsy music and, of course, their highly palatable food. But Hungarian food is not for the faint at heart and is definitely not for the dieters in the world.

Hungarians consume more calories per capita then any other European nation. Hungarian cooks use a lot of fats such as lard and sour cream and they are not afraid of flavoring their dishes with spices, such as black pepper, caraway seeds, thyme, bay leaf, dill, garlic, and, of course, a hot red pepper called paprika.

Paprika is a symbol of Hungarian cuisine though it was introduced to the country only in the 17th century. Nobody knows for sure how this hot pepper found its way to Hungary but climate and soil were so favorable that now paprika is grown everywhere. There are 8 types of paprika in Hungary, ranging from very mild Rose paprika to the hottest Orange one.

Hungarian cuisine is going back in time as far as to the 9th century. The Madyars, ancient nomadic tribes, were roaming the vast lands and mountains of what later became Hungary. They were hoarding their cattle and wandering around for months. So they invented food they were able to preserve and eat on the road: meat stews, as much as cowboys of Southern states created chili.

Later the Hungarian cuisine was influenced by Italian, Turkish and Austrian cuisines. Italian influence came in 15th century with the King Mathias and his Neapolitan wife Beatrice. Beatrice brought with her pasta, cheese, and garlic, as well as some more traditional European ways of food preparation. From Turks came desserts such as Strudel, rice dishes such as pilaf and stuffed cabbage leaves. Austria introduced Hungarians to the luscious world of pastries.

The most famous of Hungarian meat stews are goulash and paprikash. Both of them are started with onions being sauted in lard with paprika and other spices. Then meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal or combination), is added to the pot and stew is cooked on low heat for a long time in its own juices. That makes goulash. Paprikash is usually finished with addition of sour cream and sometimes roux (flour fried with lard). Sometimes those stews are made in form of soups.

Cabbage dishes became a staple of Hungarian cooking. Pork, rice, herbs and spices are used to make stuffed cabbage leaves; cabbage is braised with caraway seeds, flour, sour cream and tomato sauce; cabbage is stewed with roux, sausages and bacon. There are also other vegetable dishes such as letcho: a stew of onions, tomatoes, green peppers and bacon.

Though Hungary does not have a seacoast it has a lot of rivers and lakes so fish dishes are also popular in Hungary though not as much as meat ones. The most used fish is carp, perch-pike and crawfish. Crawfish is cooked in a form of stew with a lot of paprika, perch-pike is usually served cold in aspic and carp is often braised with vegetables and sour cream.

As for desserts, Hungarians swear that the famous Strudel is their invention. Hungarian flour with its high gluten content is the best to make Strudel. There are many different fillings for Strudel: from cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar and sultan raisins to cabbage sauted with black peppercorns and caramelized sugar.

The most famous Hungarian cake is Dobosh cake: rich chocolate layers filled with chocolate custard-like filling and topped with caramelized sugar. Chestnut puree with whipped cream is the favorite everyday dessert.

The description of Hungarian cuisine will not be complete without mentioning Hungarian wines. Hungarian wines make Hungarians rightfully proud, and the most noted wine is Tokai. Louis XIV called Tokai “a king of wines, a wine for kings.”

Tokai is made from overripe grapes with very high sugar content and it is a sweet wine with up to 15% alcohol content. Other good Hungarian wines are dry red wines, the most known is Egri Bikaver (Bull’s Blood). Apricot brandy Palinka tastes especially good after heavy meal.

Hungarian cuisine is considered to be one of the best cuisines in the world, after French and Italian. The rich traditions and great assortment of spices make Hungarian cuisine an unforgettable, though sometimes challenging, experience.

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