The most characteristic Hungarian dish is goulash - a thick soup seasoned with red paprika and onions with pieces of beef and potato.
Hungarian dishes are rich in fragrant flavors and colours, but nowadays more and more attention is paid to lowering the intake of fat into the organism.
Hungary is situated in Central Europe, in the Central Danube Region. It covers a section of the Pannonian Plain. The predominating landscapes are lowlands and hills, and the area enjoys a moderate continental climate. The capital of Hungary is Budapest, whereas some of the larger cities include Miskolc, Debrecen, Pécs and Szeged. The Danube, Tisa and Rába rivers run through Hungary. The country also has two large lakes, Lake Balaton and the Fertö Lake (Neusiedler See), partly situated in Austria.
In Hungary farms grow various cereals, vegetables, fruit, industrial plants and vine, and are engaged in domestic animal breeding, beekeeping, and fishing.
According to archaeological findings, the territory of todays Hungary was inhabited already half a million years ago, and in the 1st century Roman legions conquered the area west of the Danube River and named it Pannonia. For the following four hundred years, the Romans were leaving their traces in almost all cross-Danube cities, including also the city of Budapest, where the remnants of a Roman city called Aquincum still remain.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the territory was inhabited by the Huns, then the Goths, the Langobards and the Avars, and finally, in the 9th century, by nomads of the Hungarian-Finnish origin, namely Hungarians, who mixed with the former inhabitants from whom they learned how to cultivate the land. During the reign of the first Hungarian king, Stjepan Arpadovic I, a centralized state was formed.
The rise of the state in the Middle Ages was stopped by the Tartar invasion, which destroyed almost the entire country. King Sigismund quickly restored the country, and his tradition was continued by King Matijas who brought to the court numerous Italian Renaissance concepts.
After his reign, feudal anarchy overtook the country, culminating in the peasant uprising of 1514 under the leadership of Györgyj Dózsa, after which the weakened Hungary was defeated in the Battle near Mohac in 1526 and lost its independence. Part of the country went to the Turks, and part was conquered by the Habsburg Family.
The Turkish reign destroyed and weakened Hungary leaving, however, numerous baths and several mosques as their legacy.
In the 16th and 17th century the country was devastated by conflicts, and the dissatisfaction of Hungarian and Croatian feudal lords brought on the Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy of 1671.
With the Treaty of Pozarevac signed in 1718, the Turks finally left Hungary, but the feudal lords rebelled against the reform led by Josip II. The conspiracy led by the Hungarian-Croatian Jacobins was suppressed. The revolution led by L. Kossuth won Hungary a kind of autonomy. In 1866, after numerous uprisings and the war against Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was born.
In 1918 Hungary was proclaimed an independent state, and in 1919 the state was overtaken by the representatives of the revolutionary workers’ movement proclaiming the Soviet Republic of Hungary. Due to international intervention, the Soviet government stepped down the same year, and Horthy took over the reigns. Hungary was proclaimed a kingdom.
After the 1st World War Hungary lost a lot of its territory, hoping to get it back by joining Germany during the 2nd World War. Then again, the country suffered great losses, and in 1945 it was overtaken by the Soviet army.
In 1956, the dissatisfaction with the Stalinistic violence brought to an armed uprising, and János Kádár, leader of the workers’ and peasants’ government, became the first Secretary.
In the first free elections held in 1990, Hungary, just like its neighboring countries, started a new era.
Features of Hungarian cuisine
What’s cooking in Hungarian homes and what dishes are offered at their restaurants?
The bitter liquor called Unicum is drunk as an appetizer or a digestiv. It is made by soaking 40 different Hungarian herbs.
When thinking about Hungarian cuisine, the first thing that comes to mind is usually: hot and fatty, which is often not very far from the truth. But, the tastes are changing and the traditional dishes found in contemporary cuisine are being adjusted to the habits and needs of modern people. Hot and spicy tastes and aromas are still the main features of this cuisine. The dishes are rich in fragrant flavors and colours, but nowadays more and more attention is paid to lowering the intake of fat into the organism. Lard, until recently quite frequently used, is now being replaced by oil.
The most prominent ingredient used in Hungarian cuisine, the paprika, is part of the Turkish heritage and Turkish dietary habits. There are various types of paprika today, from light-green and sweet red, to yellow. The most common type used in Hungarian cuisine is the ground red paprika – sweet (csemege édes) or hot (eros), which gives the dishes a lively red color and a distinct taste. While traveling through Hungary, you will notice the strings of fire-red paprika hanging on the white-painted, country-house walls.
Next to the colourful paprika, the walls are also decorated with garlic, an ingredient also often added to dishes - definitely a healthier option without compromising the character of the dish.
The most characteristic Hungarian dish is goulash, i.e. various types of cream soups and stews seasoned with ground paprika and onions, with beef pieces and cubes of potato. To "soften" the taste of heavier dishes, like goulash, one would add sour cream, which is how a paprika stew is made. Chicken paprika stew (csirke paprikas) is served with small dumplings (galuska).
Fish soup or "fish paprika stew" (halaszle) is a rich dish made from several types of boiled fish, tomatoes, and green and red paprika.
A huge role in Hungarian cuisine is played by cabbage – this leafy vegetable is stuffed (toltott kaposzta) or a thick soup (kaposzta leves) is made of it.
Some of the other specialties are made of various types of salty or sweet dough. Túrós csusza is a praised dish made from pasta with homemade cheese and cream.
Although meat is quite frequent in Hungarian cuisine, the vegetarians will not be left unsatisfied either. Rantott sajt - excellent fried cheese, gombafejek rantva - crumbed and fried mushroom caps, gombaleves - a mushroom soup, sajtoskenyer - slices of bread topped with homemade cheese. There are also numerous desserts specially prepared for vegetarians to enjoy.
Desserts are highly praised in Hungary and people don’t save on them: strudles (retes), pancakes (palacsinta) with cheese, mushrooms, walnuts or poppy seeds, dumplings with plums, chestnut puree with whipped sweet cream… The popular Hungarian snack is called langos – fried dough served with garlic, salt, cheese or sour cream.
In more than a thousand restaurants, as many as there are in the capital, besides Hungarian, you can choose among all different international cuisines: Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Russian, Italian, Indian and other (of course, Croatian cuisine with its famous Vegeta is favoured here as well). The menus are often written only in Hungarian, which can cause problems (as well as various surprises!).
Live Gypsy music contributes to the original "atmosphere" of the csarde (old style taverns), which is why tourists who wish to taste the authentic Hungarian cuisine in an authentic ambiance often choose them as their destination.
The selection of quality wines has considerably grown in the past several years. The most popular wines are dry white Chardonnay and Riesling, medium dry Zöldszilváni, Harslevelu and Szürkebarát, medium sweet Traminac and the aromatic Muskotály. From the selection of red wines let us mention dry Kékfrankos, Burgundy, Port... The best-known Hungarian wine is Tokaji, a sweet dessert wine. Pálinka is the Hungarian name for a of brandy made from peaches, plums and cherries. Beer, the favorite lunch drink, goes well with the specialties of Hungarian cuisine. The bitter liquor called Unicum is drunk as an appetizer or a digestiv, and is made by soaking 40 different Hungarian herbs. The recipe is carefully preserved by the Zwach Family!
- There are more than a hundred thermal water sources and tens of spas in Hungary.
- Zsolnay and Herendy are the brand names of world-famous Hungarian ceramics producers; traditional motifs are enriched with designs by modern artists.
- Be careful with price lists in restaurants: ask around for the price of particular dishes because several other charges are added to the prices listed in the price list.
- Eger is the city where the rich red wines come from, of which Egri Bikaver ("bull’s blood") is the most famous one. On the wine road called Szépasszony Völgy ("The Valley of Beautiful Women") you can taste the quality of Hungarian wines for yourself.
- Tokay, the famous Hungarian wine valley, is situated 75 km east of Budapest.