Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A culinary picture of… Budapest

Adjusting to new flavours of local cuisine can be one of the most difficult (and eye-opening!) aspects of moving abroad. This time we’re taking a look at what it’s like to make the move to Eastern Europe – more specifically, the culinary delights of Budapest in Hungary, where the food is often hot, spicy and fried.

As is the case in many European countries, there is plenty of choice when it comes to what you’re eating – so you’re more than likely to find something which suits your palette.

Here are a few of our favourite specialities from Budapest to look out for:

Feeling hot, hot, hot
Paprika is the national spice of Hungary so it’s not surprising that food is usually hot and spicy – although it’s fair to say that the local perception of spicy may differ to your own! Made of ground peppers, you’ll find the spice in a lot of dishes across the city, particularly the most well-known dish, goulash. Known by Hungarians as gulyás, it’s big business in Budapest. Usually somewhere between a stew and a soup in its consistency, goulash is made with beef, vegetables and garlic. If you’re not keen on spice, you could try making your own and holding back on the paprika – slow cooking is the trick…!

Image source: Creative Commons / Francis Bourgouin

If in doubt, fry it!
Across the city you’ll find numerous kiosks which offer cheap and cheerful options for lunch and dinner, at a very competitive cost. Although they don’t all look particularly inspiring, much of the food will exceed your expectations – it’s delicious, although not always healthy. As your expat experience continues you’ll soon identify the best outlets! If you’re not big on spice and are looking to steer clear of paprika, there are plenty of other options: if you’re feeling particularly hungry then why not give langos a try? Served like a pizza on a bed of fried dough, it combines garlic (yes, more garlic!), tomatoes, Hungarian sausage, sour cream and lashings of cheese. It’s not one for the healthy-minded, or the weak-hearted, but a great option if you fancy something a bit stodgy! 

 Image source: Creative Commons / Krista

The Jewish Quarter
In the city’s Jewish Quarter, you’ll find a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of pavement cafes and bars. Sit down and take in the atmosphere with one of the city’s famous beers – particularly during the spring and summer months, when the weather feels uncharacteristically warm for Europe. Usually sold at between 200 and 800 HUF (the equivalent of about a £1), a pint is the perfect way to quench your thirst, particularly after tucking into a plateful of gulyás or langos!

A novel reminder
The city’s historic feel is also reflected in its nightlife – many of the watering holes are something between a pub and a bar and are extremely quirky, to the point where some resemble unfinished building sites.  Most of the drinks, particularly spirits, come in generous measures – so it’s important to make sure you’ve eaten a good meal before heading for a drink. Luckily, the Hungarians have come up with an unusual way of reminding people to line their stomachs – you’ll see plenty of bar staff proffering large baskets of raw carrots to their punters. We say go ahead and dig in!

What are the strangest food customs you’ve been introduced to since moving abroad? Let us know by tweeting @expatexplorer!

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