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Hungarian or Magyar cuisine is the cuisine characteristic of the nation of Hungary and its primary ethnic group, the Magyars. Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products and cheeses.
Hungarians are especially passionate about their meat stews, casseroles, steaks, roasted pork, beef, poultry, lamb and game. The mixing of different varieties of meats is a traditional feature of Hungarian cuisine. Goulash, stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage, and Fatányéros (Hungarian mixed grill on a wooden platter) are all dishes that can combine beef and pork, and sometimes mutton. Goulash is a stew with more gravy or a soup using meat with bones, paprika, caraway, vegetables (typically carrots and parsley root) and potatoes or various tiny dumplings or pasta simmered with the meat. Other famous Hungarian meat stews include paprikás, a paprika stew with meat simmered in thick creamy paprika gravy, and pörkölt, a Hungarian stew with boneless meat (usually beef or pork), onion, and sweet paprika powder, both served with nokedli (small dumplings). In old fashioned dishes, fruits like plums and apricots are cooked with meat or in piquant sauces/stuffings for game, roasts and other cuts. Various kinds of noodles and dumplings, potatoes, and rice are commonly served as a side dish. Hungarian sausages (kolbász) and winter salami are a major part of Hungarian cuisine.
Other characteristics of Hungarian cuisine are the soups, desserts, and pastries and stuffed crepes (palacsinta), with fierce rivalries between regional variations on the same dish (like the Hungarian hot fish soup called Fisherman's Soup or halászlé, cooked differently on the banks of Hungary's two main rivers: the Danube and the Tisza), palacsinta (pancakes served flambéed in dark chocolate sauce filled with ground walnuts) and Dobos Cake (layered sponge cake, with chocolate buttercream filling and topped with a thin slice of caramel).
Two remarkable elements of Hungarian cuisine that are hardly noticed by locals, but usually elicit much enthusiasm from foreigners, are different forms of vegetable stews called főzelék as well as cold fruit soups, like cold sour cherry soup (Hungarian: hideg meggyleves).
Hungarian cuisine uses a large variety of cheeses, but the most common are túró (a type of quark), cream cheeses, ewe-cheese (juhturó), Emmentaler, Edam and the Hungarian cheeses Trappista, Pálpusztai and Pannonia cheese.
Hungarian food is often spicy, due to the common use of hot paprika. Sweet (mild) paprika is also common. Additionally, the combination of paprika, lard and yellow onions is typical of Hungarian cuisine, and the use of the thick sour cream called tejföl.
In addition to various kinds of paprika and onions (raw, sweated, seared, browned or caramelized), other common flavor components include: bay leaf, black peppercorn, caraway, coriander, cinnamon, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice and peel, marjoram, mustard (prepared), oregano, parsley vinegar and vanilla. Less used spices are anise, basil, chervil, chives, cloves, juniper berries, lovage, mace, poppy seeds, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme and creeping thyme and white peppercorn.
Hungarian cuisine has influenced the history of the Magyar people. The importance of livestock and the nomadic lifestyle of the Magyar people is apparent in the prominence of meat in Hungarian food and may be reflected in traditional meat dishes cooked over the fire like goulash (in Hungarian "gulyás", lit. "herdsman's (meal)"), pörkölt stew and the spicy fisherman's soup called halászlé are all traditionally cooked over the open fire in a bogrács (or cauldron). In the 15th century, King Matthias Corvinus and his Neopolitan wife Beatrice, influenced by Renaissance culture, introduced new ingredients like sweet chestnut and spices like garlic, ginger, mace, saffron and nutmeg, onion and the use of fruits in stuffings or cooked with meat. Some of these spices like ginger and saffron are no longer used in modern Hungarian cuisine. At that time and later, considerable numbers of Saxons (a German ethnic group), Armenians, Italians, Jews and Serbs settled in the Hungarian basin and in Transylvania, also contributing with different new dishes. Elements of ancient Turkish cuisine were adopted during the Ottoman era, in the form of sweets (for example different nougats, like white nougat called törökméz, quince (birsalma) sweets, Turkish delight), Turkish coffee or rice dishes like pilaf (in Transylvania), meat and vegetable dishes like the eggplant, used in eggplant salads and appetizers, stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage called töltött káposzta. Hungarian cuisine was influenced by Austrian cuisine under the Austro-Hungarian Empire; dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed from Austrian cuisine, and vice versa. Some cakes and sweets in Hungary show a strong German-Austrian influence. All told, modern Hungarian cuisine is a synthesis of ancient Asiatic components mixed with Germanic, Italian, and Slavic elements. The food of Hungary can be considered a melting pot of the continent, with a culinary base formed from its own, original Magyar cuisine.
In Hungary, people usually have a large breakfast. Hungarian breakfast generally is an open sandwich with fresh bread or a toast, butter, cheese or different cream cheeses, túró cheese or körözött (Liptauer cheese spread), cold cuts such as ham, véres hurka (similar to black pudding), liver pâté (called májkrém or kenőmájas), bacon, salami, beef tongue, mortadella, disznósajt (head cheese), sausages like kabanos, beerwurst or different Hungarian sausages or kolbász. Even eggs, (fried, scrambled or boiled), French toast called bundáskenyér and vegetables (like peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, radish, scallion and cucumber) are part of the Hungarian breakfast. Sometimes breakfast is a cup of milk, tea or coffee with pastries, a bun, a kifli or a strudel with jam or honey, or cereal like muesli and perhaps fruit. Children can have rice pudding (tejberizs) or Semolina Cream (tejbegríz) for breakfast topped with cocoa powder and sugar or with fruit syrup. Hot drinks are preferred for breakfast.
Villásreggeli (literally breakfast with fork) is a more luxurious big breakfast given on special occasions or holidays. Often guests are invited. Deviled eggs, cold steak, cold salads, salmon-omelet, pancakes, a spicy cheese spread made with sheep milk cheese called körözött, caviar, foie gras, fruit salads, compote, fruit yogurts, fruit juices, champagne and pastries, cakes and cookies may be served.
Lunch is the major meal of the day, usually with several courses. Cold or hot appetizers may be served sometimes (for example fish, egg or liver), then soup. Soup is followed by a main dish. The main dish is a dish including meat and salad, which precedes the dessert. Fruit may follow. In Hungary, pancakes are served as a main dish, not for breakfast. Salad is always served with meat dishes, made of lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions or a simple thin sliced cucumber salad in vinaigrette. Salads like Salade Olivier or potato salad are made of boiled potatoes, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, fried or boiled meat or fish, in vinaigrette, aspic or mayonnaise. These salads are eaten as appetizers or even as a main course.
Some people and children eat a light meal in the afternoon, called uzsonna, usually an open sandwich, pastry, slice of cake or fruit. Dinner is a far less significant meal than lunch. It may be similar to breakfast, usually an open sandwich, yogurt or virsli (hot dog sausage) with a bun, more seldom a cake, pancakes (palacsinta), and it consists of only one course.
Hungarians have for Christmas as soup a fish soup called halászlé. Other dishes may be served like roast goose, roast turkey or roast duck, stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta). Pastry roll filled with walnut or poppy seed called (bejgli) is a usual Christmas food, and candies and sweets used to decorate the Christmas tree like szaloncukor are eaten during all Christmas, when everybody picks them and eats them directly from the tree. On New Year's Eve (Szilveszter), Hungarians traditionally celebrate with virsli (Vienna sausage, and lentil soup. On New Year's Day, it is common to eat either lentil soup or korhelyleves, a meaty sauerkraut soup said to cure hangovers. Easter (Húsvét) meals have few specialties, though some Hungarians (especially in Szabolcs County) make a special sweet yellow cheese, Sárga túró, made with quark (túró) and eggs.
Hungarian wine dates back to at least Roman times, and that history reflects the country's position between the Slavs and the Germanic peoples. The best-known wines are the white dessert wine called Tokaji (after the North-Eastern region of Hungary, Tokaj) and the red wines from Villány (Southern part of Hungary). Famous is also the wine called Bull's Blood (Egri Bikavér), a dark, full-bodied red wine. Hungarian fruit wines, like redcurrant wine, are mild and soft in taste and texture.
Though not as famous as the country's wines, Hungarian beer has a long history as well.
Hungary's most notable liquors are Unicum, a herbal bitters, and Pálinka, a range of fruit brandies (plum and pear are popular). Also notable are the 21 brands of Hungarian mineral waters (for example Apenta and Kékkúti). Some of them have therapeutic value, like Mira.
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