It is time for the last vacation post for this summer. And it’s a very nice story to tell. Closing off the summer wanderings was a city getaway to Budapest. True to my newfound passion for food tours, I thought there’s no way I can miss the experience in Hungary’s capital city!
So there I was, at the Central Hall market, together with an entertaining group of people and a very knowledgeable guide, kicking off the afternoon of delights.
First stop – MEAT.
Lots and lots of meat.
And, according to our guide Gergo, for us on this particular day, even more than usual!
In order of appearance, we were presented with six (!) options: deer, duck, (good old) pork, rabbit, rabbit with paprika and, drum rolls…. horse meat sausage. The first reaction of most of the group regarding the latter was surprise and curiosity, but one face did look with disgust, interestingly enough, not the face of the only vegetarian in the group.
Let’s do this! Unfortunately, the horse meat sausage was the best… the paprika rabbit came close second. Lots and lots of meat… (sweaty emoticon).
Next stop in the market – time for some fluffiness. Hungarians call it pogacsa, which is not too far from the meaning Bulgarians give to this word, only in this case, prepared in small bites of fluffiness.
Pieces of gold, if you ask me. And they tasted magnificently. Gergo told us that this is the best stall for pogasca. The bakers make these at the back of the stall and even the women selling them at the front of the stall don’t know the exact recipe. I don’t care about the recipe. I want more. And I did get more, just the next day. Markets have long seized to mean just fruit and vegetables for me. 🙂
Out of the market and into the old town of Pest. We went to a cute little place called Halkakas where we tasted two specialties – carp chips and catfish (in the fore) together with some dips made with each type of fish.
It was a very nice atmosphere, just on the sidewalk, dipping and tasting. Conclusion – “yes” to catfish and “I’m good, thanks” for the carp. I’ve had the latter very many times in my childhood and, Hungarian or Bulgarian, this fish is just too fatty for me. In any case, the group was satisfied. Evidence below.
The next stop was a cafe/bar, a totally weird run-down place which was a bit like a second-hand store for obscure furniture (no two chairs or tables were the same) and creepy toys. Just to illustrate: the girls’ toilet was indicated by 3 or 4 Barbies hanging on the door, without a leg here and a hand there, naked, messy hair, colour marker all over the place… you get the point; Kens were serving the same purpose on the other door.
Here we had Hungarian white wine with soda. Let’s say I was more impressed by the bar than by the drink. Below, one of many more strange things.
Next, it was time for the Jewish quarter. After passing by the magnificent Synagogue marking the beginning of the neighbourhood, we stopped to try the most famous Jewish cake, Rachel Raj’s Flodni.
It is made using only natural ingredients: poppy seeds, walnut, apple, and plum jam. It was nice but I must admit I am not a big fan of the poppy seeds overall. The coffee I had at this cafe was, on the other hand, perfect.
The final stop was, hands down, my absolute favourite. It was a traditional restaurant called Reteshaz, which prides itself as being the first strudel house in Budapest. But first we didn’t have strudel. We had something else. Something very traditional, something very typical and, finally, absolutely delicious. You guessed it – goulash!
The picture does not do justice to what this tasted like. If pictures and words cannot relay the taste (which they very rarely can), you know what you need to do. Just go.
And then dessert time! The (apparently) famous strudel. Unlike what I thought, strudel is not just made with apples. In fact, all kinds of variants are possible. There is a base (either poppy seed or curd) and then fruit, all kinds of fruit.
Lots and lots of strudel…
I had the curd and cherry kind.
As it happened, though, I was there just when the head baker was making the classic – apple strudel. I had a field day. He enjoyed the attention.
Fun fact: these balls of dough must be rolled out so thinly, you should be able to read through them. As much as I wanted, I could not stay long enough to witness it. There’s always next time.
This place was the perfect ending of the culinary afternoon. A nice moment as if back in time. Long live the apples. And romantic old places like this one.