Where to eat in Budapest, Hungary
By Kat Silverfield
The city of Budapest doesn’t scream gastronomic haven but the food scene is very much alive – you just have to know where to look. Who better to lead the way than a Hungarian food expert?
My husband and I set off with our food guide, Julia, early on a Saturday morning in Budapest’s Central Market Hall. With our stomachs rumbling we were ready to dive into some authentic Hungarian food. Little did we know our morning would begin with a shot of Unicum – a traditional Hungarian liqueur. Unicum is bitter, herby and not for the faint-hearted. I can’t tell you what’s in it because, well, nobody knows besides the Zwacks – Unicum’s creators. It’s meant to be drunk before and after meals to aid digestion. A must-have before touring Budapest’s best food spots apparently.
First up was the big cheese (pun intended) of Hungarian street food and the item I was most excited about. Maybe because it reminds me of the funnel cake you would get from an American carnival or perhaps just because it’s fried and covered in cheese and soured cream. Either way it’s called lángos and it’s the best thing I ate in Budapest. It was good from the central market but I suggest visiting the Retro Büfé for more of an authentic experience.
Next up was a sausage-tasting featuring Hungarian Mangalica pork which comes from, wait for it, the Mangalica pig. The only issue is, the pig itself (a teddy bear-pig hybrid) is so damn cute that waves of guilt may overtake you as you bite into one of its sausages. Rest assured, that all fades away, the sausages were nothing short of tasty and deliciously saturated with paprika – both sweet and hot.
After the tour de sausage we moved on to the basement floor of the market where they house the more potent of the vendors – fish and pickles. They’re harboured in the basement to keep the scent away from the expansive hall upstairs. We didn’t try any fish while there. Our guide reminded us that Hungary is a land-locked country and while there are some fresh water fish, we were better off sticking with the country’s delicious pork. We did however get to try some pickled veggies, including pickled baby watermelon and pickled garlic cloves. The baby watermelons are not for everyone as they can be quite tart but the garlic cloves were subtle and perfectly snackable.
We tried some other Hungarian delicacies such as goose confit, braised red cabbage and the Hungarian version of blood sausage. After this lengthy eating session, we managed to waddle our way over to one of Budapest’s finest chocolatiers called Rozsavolgyi Csokolade. Here we sampled unusually flavoured chocolates including a tarragon bonbon and an ancho chilli bonbon. The shop is run by a husband and wife team who studied chocolate techniques in Venezuela for over two years. It’s one of Budapest’s premier chocolate shops.
Just when we thought the food tour was over we went for our second round of desserts at one of Hungary’s oldest confectionery shops – Auguszt. This is where we tried the Esterházy torta. It’s a traditional Hungarian cake made with a walnut based dough layered with vanilla cream. It was very sweet, creamy and the walnuts gave it a great texture.
Now, it’s not a complete Hungarian food experience without trying the country’s pride and joy of the wine world: the Tokaji Aszú dessert wine. It comes from the Tokaj wine region located in the northeastern part of the country where the elements are conducive for noble rot – resulting in this sweet, golden wine.
Have you explored Budapest? Let us know your favourite foodie spots by commenting below.
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