Food in Hungary
Menu prices for main meals are typically 2000 – 4000 HUF in touristic areas of Budapest, and 1500 – 2200 HUF outside of the city, or in towns such as Eger and Szentendre.
A two-course lunch with a soft drink costs between 1500 and 8000 HUF per person in Budapest, and half or a third of that outside of the city (Chinese fast food menu is around 900 HUF – januar 2014).
In restaurants, a service fee of 10% or even 12% is often added in the bill, although this must be explicitly stated on the menu. If it is not stated, the establishment has no authority to add a service fee in the bill.
Even if there is no service fee, unless the service was appalling, most Hungarians will leave a minimum tip of 10%. Unlike in most Western nations, tips are generally not left on the table, but rather stated to the wait staff when you pay.
There were a few establishments, mostly in Pest’s center, that tried to take advantage of intoxicated visitors by charging exorbitant rates for beverages late at night. Most of these establishments are already closed, however it’s always a good idea to double-check the pricing before ordering.
Restaurants of large worldwide brands such as KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, and TGI Friday’s may be found in major cities and along motorways.
Hungarians are very proud of their food (Magyar konyha), and not without reason most of the time. Food is typically spicy, but not very hot by Western standards, and it’s more about taste than health: many meals are cooked with fat or deep-fried. The national spice is paprika, which is produced from pulverized sweet bell peppers and has some taste when fresh. The national food is goulash, although Hungarians refer to the thick paprika-laden stew known as goulash abroad as pörkölt, whereas gulyás refers to a lighter paprika-flavored soup.
Meat, particularly pig (sertés), beef (marha), and venison (z), is popular. Lamb and mutton are less frequent. Though many restaurants would offer fish from far away, the finest fish in Hungary are river fish: carp (ponty), zander (fogas/süll), and catfish (harcsa). Roasted hake (sült hekk) is another traditional hungarian fish dish. Chicken (csirke) and turkey (pulyka) are popular, but game birds like as pheasant (Fácán), partridge (Fogoly), and duck (fogoly) are also popular (Kacsa). A typical dinner would include soup, typically in the form of a consommé (erleves), meat with potatoes (burgonya) and a side salad, as well as a dessert such as pancakes (palacsinta).
Csirke paprikás, a chicken stew in paprika sauce, and halászlé, a paprika fish soup typically prepared from carp, are less well known in the rest of the globe.
In Hungary, goose is also quite popular. While visitors feast on goose liver (libamáj), which is still relatively inexpensive by Western standards, the most popular meal is sült libacomb, or roast goose leg. Stuffed (töltött) vegetables of various sorts are very popular, as are savory and sweet Hungarian pancakes (palacsinta). Kolbász, a Hungarianized variant of the Polish kielbasa sausage, and lángos, deep-fried flatbread with a variety of toppings (usually sour cream, cheese, and/or garlic), are popular snacks.
Even at morning, a Hungarian meal is nearly always accompanied with savanyság, which translates as “sourness.” If you prefer fresh vegetables, request a vitamin saláta, which is frequently referred to as saláta on menus. Starch is most often offered as potatoes, rice, or dumplings (galuska’ or nokedli), but the main Hungarian contribution in this area is tarhonya, a tiny couscous-like noodle.
If you are in Hungary, you should go to a “Cukrászda.” These are extremely popular since they provide excellent pastries and coffee. Try the classic Krémes (vanilla cream), Eszterházy (plenty of nuts), or Somlói Galuska. If you want the greatest, go to Auguszt, Szamos, or Daubner! Daubner is a bit out of the way, but Auguszt Cukrászda is a must-see. They opened a store near the Astoria metro station in 1969.
Another popular dish is Lángos, which is deep-fried bread served with a variety of fillings. Plain, with salt, garlic (fokhagyma), and soured cream (tejföl) is the most frequent. If you come across a Langos stall, there are typically a variety of choices available, such as pizza langos, eggs with mayo, or nutella with bananas.
Vegetarians and Vegans will have roughly the same level of comfort dining out as they would in any other Western nation. Budapest is not an issue since there are many places to select from, but at a typical Hungarian restaurant, the non-meat main courses are pretty much restricted to rántott sajt (fried cheese) and gombafejek rántva (fried mushrooms).
However, Italian cuisine has grown in popularity in recent years, so if you don’t mind a pasta-heavy diet as a vegetarian, you’ll have more options.
For self-catering, supermarkets or local stores and marketplaces provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, particularly in the summer.
There are many vegetarian and vegan eateries, as well as numerous health food shops that provide a variety of vegetarian/vegan goods, including cosmetics. Budaveg and Happy Cow are excellent locations to get particular information.
Drinks in Hungary
Egri Bikavér (Bull’s Blood of Eger) (HUF 1000 for a good one) is a powerful red Hungarian wine that is said to have rescued a smart Hungarian girl from a fateful marriage with a Turkish sultan. During the Turkish occupation, a young girl is claimed to have been called to become a member of the local sultan’s harem. Not wishing his daughter to suffer this destiny, her father handed her a bottle of Egri Bikavér to present to the Sultan. He instructed her to inform the king that it was bull’s blood and would make him unstoppable. As a Muslim, the sultan was unused to alcohol and passed out, leaving the daughter unhurt. Another tale, also from the Turkish period, explains why Bull’s Blood is named that way. The defenders of the various castles, according to that one, used to sip this crimson wine. When they observed the red on the Hungarians’ lips, they assumed it was from a bull, thus the name.
Tokaj is famous for its sweet dessert wines (Tokaji asz), (HUF 2000 x 6000), which are made from grapes afflicted with the “noble rot” Botrytis cinerea. Past admirers of Tokaji include Louis XIV (who referred to it as “the king of wines, the wine of kings”), Beethoven, Napoleon III, and Peter the Great – which is now reflected in the high price of the finest kinds. Tokaj is almost unusual among white wines in that it may be stored for an extended period of time.
If you’re new to Hungarian wine, keep in mind that both champagne (“pezsg”) and wine, red or white, are almost always sweet (“Édes” or “félédes”). If you like dry wine, search for the term “Száraz” on the label. When purchasing bottled wine, avoid anything less than 6-700 HUF, since they are generally of poor quality (maybe not even produced from grapes). However, in wine cellars, high-quality wines may be found at shockingly cheap rates.
Pálinka is a powerful brandy-like beverage made from fruit in Hungarian. Pálinka is a highly sociable drink: much as the English enjoy tea, Hungarians would give pálinka to visitors upon arrival, especially in rural regions. The most well-known variations are barackpálinka, which is produced from apricots, körtepálinka, which is made from pears, and szilvapálinka, which is made from plums. Although factory-made pálinka is commonly accessible, look for handmade házipálinka. Pálinkas often contain 50 percent or more alcohol, with handmade versions sometimes containing much more. Honey will be highly sweetened in Pálinka bottles labeled mézes. (HUF 3000 for something worthwhile)
Unicum is a potent digestif created from a proprietary blend of over 40 plants. It comes in eye-catching black bottles with a red and white cross imprinted on them, and it has a very powerful and unique flavor. Unicum Next has a milder, lemony taste that is more tolerable. The spherical container (affectionately known as “the Holy Hand Grenade”) itself may be used for decoration and preserves extremely well for a long period. It’s accessible in every pub in Hungary, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody drinking it.
Because Hungary has long been a wine culture, its beer is fairly ordinary when compared to other Central European nations such as Germany and the Czech Republic. The most popular beers include Dreher, Szalon, Borsodi, Soproni, and Arany szok, which are available in the világos (lager) and barna styles (brown). International brands own and operate all Hungarian breweries, including: Dreher Sörgyár (Budapest) – SAB-Miller; Heineken Hungaria (Sopron and Martf) – Heineken; Borsodi Sörgyár (Bcs) – Interbrew; and Pécsi Sörfzde (Pécs) – Ottakinger. They cost HUF200-300 at a shop and HUF400-600 in a bar. In Budapest, some premium clubs may charge up to 900 euros.
Imported beers such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, and Budweiser-Budvar (the original Czech type) are readily available in pubs and stores at a fraction of the price of the ubiquitous Hungarian brands.
If you propose a beer toast, be aware that most Hungarians will respectfully decline. This is related to an ancient custom commemorating troops killed by the Habsburgs of Austria during the 1848 revolution, in which it was ordered that no Hungarian would toast with beer for the next 150 years. However, it has been so long that most Hungarians are unaware of the origins of this custom or that they have been allowed to make toasts over beer for the last 10 years.
Cafe culture is prevalent in Hungary, but it may never recapture the romanticism of its turn-of-the-century intellectual heyday. Unless specifically requested, it’s a good idea to indicate the kind of coffee you like. The term kávé refers to a strong, espresso-like coffee, but American-style coffee, known as hossz kávé in Hungarian and generally translated as “long coffee,” is also widely available.
Tea houses are becoming more popular in cities, particularly among young people. There are an increasing number of tea shops, mostly in Budapest and other larger towns, where individuals may purchase various kinds of loose tea. Herbal and fruit teas are the most delicious. Lemon juice is often offered in a tiny bottle at restaurants and cafés. However, excellent teas are difficult to obtain in conventional restaurants or cafés since coffee is favored.
It is readily accessible and a good idea to have a bottle on hand during the hot summer months.
It should be emphasized, however, that, as in other European nations, drinking tap water everywhere, including in’remote’ locations, is safe; nevertheless, the taste of the water may be quite unpleasant owing to the cleaning process. It’s best to give it a go before switching to bottled water. Bottled waters have a wide variety of both effervescent (blue bottle cap) and still (red/pink bottle cap) water, and they are inexpensive (starts from less than 100 HUF for one and half liter). The only noteworthy drinking water exceptions are trains, where the tap water is not drinkable, and other locations where tap water is designated as such.