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My favorite foods in Hungary – Experience of an American guy

With November present, my favorite Hungarian dishes well-matched for usually chillier days are becoming quite appealing. Compotes, salads, stews and vegetable bakes await!  

The first recipe is my most favorite: uborkasaláta (cucumber salad). With the mixture of paprika, black pepper and garlic powder to name a few ingredients, this side dish is superb. With preparation time of around an hour or less, it’s attainable for all aspiring chefs. Being dairy- and nut-free, this makes a great option for a dinner party. About two cucumbers sliced very thin will serve about four to six guests. Sprinkle the cucumbers with roughly 6ml of salt and allow them to sit for around a half hour. Afterwards, squeeze out the water onto a paper towel. Then combine 6ml of sugar, 60ml white vinegar and a dash of garlic powder into a rather deep serving bowl. Afterwards, sprinkle paprika on one half and black pepper on the other for a traditional look. 

Rakott krumpli (Hungarian Layered Potatoes) is a dish I treat myself to on special occasions. I’d consider this to be a heavier dish. Be prepared if this will be your first time tasting. To start, you’ll need four to five medium-sized potatoes which will serve about six guests. Peel the potatoes and place them into boiling water, cook until the middle is slightly soft. Hint: after they’ve been boiling for around twenty minutes or so, place a fork inside the potato – If it enters with ease then it’s cooked. While the potatoes are softening, boil two eggs until they are hard-boiled. Once they are both ready, slice them into the shape of medallions.  Afterwards, in a casserole dish, layer potatoes, butter, eggs and sour cream in this order until the pan is full ( you will need around 250 ml butter and 560 ml of sour cream). Cover the dish with tin foil and place into the oven at 180°C for an hour. This dish is truly the best when eaten fresh. Feel free to add several types of sausages or bacon (sliced thinly) in between the other ingredients.  

Bableves (Bean Soup) goes quite well on a colder day. Bountiful in vegetables, this is sure to make one happy stomach. With preparation time of around 3 ½ to 4 hours, be assured it will not go unnoticed by guests. About a quarter kilo of pinto beans will serve four to six. Place the beans in a medium-sized sauce pan. Add enough water until they’re covered. Bring the water to a boil for five or so minutes. Turn off the gas, but keep the pan on the burner to allow adequate soaking. While the beans are soaking, take a larger sauce pan and place two bay leaves and 1 ½ liters of vegetable stock in it. Bring this to a boil. Afterwards, reduce heat and add 2 celery stalks, 1 medium onion, 2 medium carrots (all finely chopped) until soft. Afterwards, place the beans along with 5ml of paprika, oregano and basil. Allow this to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add freshly ground salt and pepper to one’s preference. Remove the bay leaves and the soup is completed. Can be served with a salad or rustic bread.   

Lastly, my favorite dessert within Hungary and generally Central/Eastern Europe would be almakompót (Apple Compote). This recipe is made of whole or sliced pieces of fruit boiled in water with sugar and spices. Preparation and cooking time is about an hour. To start, take a large mixing bowl and add 1 liter of water along with the juice of a lemon. Next, wash, peel and de-core 8 apples. Place them into the lemon water along with 3 slices of lemon. Let this soak for about 15-20 minutes.

Apple compote in a glass vase on a wooden table

Drain the water and place the apples into a medium sauce pan, add 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 cloves, 1 vanilla bean, and roughly 128 grams of sugar. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil. Keep in mind to not allow the water to boil for a long time. Turn the heat to rather a medium-low simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow the compote to cool before placing it into the refrigerator to chill. Once chilled, the compote is best served in small bowls.

Csaba Roszik 

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