As someone who looks to fall knee deep into different cultures when travelling, foreign food interests me a lot. Here in Budapest the city is thriving with with endless possibilities to grab a taste of traditional Hungarian cuisine. You can wander the never ending streets of Budapest and be greeted on many a corner by the sweet smelling hot air rising from freshly rolled cinnamon and coconut Kürtőskalács. Or why not choose nearly any cafe or restaurant at random to tuck into an always surprisingly delightful bowl of Gulyás soup. I have yet to be let down by the Hungarians when it comes to their food, and so as a foreigner living here I have documented the best moments of my ‘Foodapest’ experience for people who, like myself, have come to enjoy the taste of Budapest so that they too can explore what’s on offer here!
Where to start? Why not Gulyás!
Gulyás or goulash is a traditional Hungarian favourite! It is, for all the world, like a bowl of the best stew you will EVER dip bread into. Beef, vegetables, potato slices or noodles with the perfect amount of paprika and other spices for seasoning. The origins of this mouth watering dish trace back as far as the ninth century and can be made as either a soup or a stew, depending on the preference of the chef. I have a couple of favourite spots for Goulash, but my favourite is Suelto, at Madách Imre Ter. It’s affordable at a reasonable price and presented in a way that gives the feeling of being in an old style Hungarian in this quirky little food haven in the heart of the city.
I was so taken by the delicious phenomenon that is Gulyás that I decided to take it upon myself to make my own pot of it! I am a terrible cook so my housemates and I were doubtful of a positive outcome, but to our surprise we were fed quite nicely for the next three nights with a plentiful supply of the second best gulyás I have tasted since being here…Goulash á la Jess!
For dinner I found two really quirky spots. First up is Cafe Colombo. This is a GREAT spot! Hidden away very sneakily and unassuming just across the bridge on the Buda site of the city this underground tavern offers a really cool selection of craft beers and ‘scones’. At first when I read the menu and saw ‘scones’ I though of afternoon tea and jam and fresh cream. but how wrong I was. Here in Budapest if you order a ‘scone’ you are presented with a dinner style potato-pastry stuffed with all your favourite fillings; peppers, mushrooms, cottage cheese, whatever takes your fancy. I ordered a vegetarian one that did not fail to impress me (and went down quite nicely with the beer!) A dinner here can be bought for little over 1000 HUF which is no more than three or four euro.
Second up is Lado Cafe. Here you can enjoy tasteful live jazz music whilst enjoying a typical Hungarian dinner. My palette was more than pleased with my choice of Duck Leg Confute, Roasted Apples and a side of potato mash. Be warned these dishes can be heavy on the belly, but light on the pocket so you won’t go wrong.
And if you’re looking for a lunch or tea time treat that’s a little lighter but still full of endearing Hungarian delight, check out Tinto Tapas bar on Vaci Utca. Tinto is a Spanish restaurant but it’s easy to see that though the menu is made up of traditional tapas it is influenced by subtle hints of Hungarian favourites (*Paprika paprika paprika!) Located right on the bustling doorstep of the main shopping street in Budapest, I really didn’t know what to expect when I went there but I thought it would be something different, and I was right. The food was inviting and served in nice appetising portions and at a great price! This place is perfect to pop into for a light-bite if you’re exploring the nearby shops and streets!
On The Go…
People tend to be on the go a lot here in Budapest. Whether you’re a tourist checking out the sites, a local running to and from metro stops, or a wandering student/expat like myself looking to discover more of the city you’ll definitely find yourself getting the nibbles! For this, I have four solutions.
#1… To market to market to buy a fat pig! The Great Market Hall, or the “Nagycsarnok” central market in Hungarian is a grande place indeed. Think of something you’d like to eat…it’s here! Fresh fruit and veg, spices and herbs, meat and fish, BREAD to beat the band and sweet treats on every corner. There are of course too many corners in this fantastic hall of food and you can find yourself going round in circles for close to an hour, but you won’t be complaining about that!
#2… Kürtőskalács According to the experts “Kürtőskalács is made from sweet, yeast dough (raised dough), of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar. It is baked above charcoal cinders while lubricated with melted butter, until its surface gets a golden-brown color.” The Kürtőskalács originates from Transylvania where it was mentioned in the 1784 cookbook of Countess Mária Mikes of Zabola. It made its way to Upper Hungary however (modern day Slovakia) where it took it’s ‘sweetened’ form, a recipe better known to Budapest that can be found in the cookbook of Kristóf Simai which dates back to 1795. You can get one of the nicest tasting Kürtőskalács at Molnár’s Kürtőskalács Bakery at Váci Utca 31 here in Budapest who have one of the best selections of toppings on offer; poppy-seed, walnut, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, coconut, cocoa and almond.
#3… I Scream You Scream We All Scream For Ice Cream! ‘Gelarto Rosa’ is it’s name and making flowery ice-cream is their game. For as little as 500HUF you can enjoy a beautifully sculpted flower cone of ice-cream in view of the stunning St.Stephen’s Basilica Rain, hail or shine the queue will be long and no umbrella is too feeble to keep punters away from enjoying a cone of lemon and basil sorbet or lavender white chocolate ice-cream!
And #4… Something Saucy! Let’s face it, we all appreciate a good helping of fast-food sauce sometimes! So if the sun is shining I would highly recommend taking a seat on the steps of the beautiful Basilica and plonking a tray of Jack’s Burger’s on your lap and enjoying the view!
Midst all my food-driven trekking there was one place that I really fell in love with. Voros Oroszlan Teaház at Jokai Ter is a tea house and Oxegen bar. The craze of ‘oxegen bars’ is starting to become somewhat of a thing here and I was pleasantly surprised by both the novelty factor and actual felt benefits. This Teaház is my favourite. It offers a great menu with pages and pages of teas ranging from Indian Morning Tea to Vitamin boosts and is a great way to relax and feel healthy but also treat yourself to a slice of the BEST carrot cake in Budapest (in my humble sweet-toothed opinion). So for now, that is perhaps where I will stay…