In Hungary, it’s the lángos…

Pretty much every nation of people on this planet has a version of deep fried dough of which they are fiercely proud, one which they insist is unique and different from all other versions. India has the paratha, the puri, the vada. Bulgaria has the mekitzi. Turkey has lokma. In France it’s the sweet goffre. It’s akara in West Africa, bannock in Canada, frybread for…

Hungarian Favorites: In the Kitchen with Grandma

As another summer approaches I instinctively get to thinking about returning to Hungary to visit the family and sinking my toes into the sodden, silken sludge of Balaton Lake. I think perhaps too much about where and what I’d like to eat: velős pirítós (herbed calf brain on toast) in Balatonfüred with a crispy cool glass of Irsai…

Pig Becomes…

“It’s tomorrow morning,” came her voice through the speaker. I sat up and pressed the phone harder against my ear. “And Lili, listen: It’s exactly what you want.” “Tomorrow? But I still need to get out there…” “It’s worth it. Trust me, they hardly ever do it like this anymore!” At 6 a.m. the next day I’m…

Festive Fare at the Holiday Markets

Despite the grim disposition of some of its people, Budapest is all around a cheerful place during the holidays. Many of the main squares (Deák, Ferenciek, Vörösmarty) tote jingle bells all month and light up with colorful booths selling traditional Yuletide merchandise: gingerbread figures, wool slippers, Christmas tree decorations. But I tend to walk right past these on…

The Best Zserbó at Cafe Gerbeaud

“Well, I expected more. Frankly, it’s overhyped,” comes the grim testimonial of the malcontent Eastern European, no doubt a cheaper one would’ve impressed him more because “less good” means “more real” and “more real” is the only praiseworthy attribute by his ideology, because the linear correlation between price and value is a myth to him and he likes…

Pickled Things in Istanbul and Budapest

During my time in Istanbul I came across a surprisingly long list of things with an identical Hungarian counterpart. One of these was pickle culture. In both Hungary and Turkey pickled veggies are considered a necessary side to greasy, saucy meats as they help with digestion and break down excess fat. In Hungary pickles are…

Turkish Poğaça, Hungarian Pogácsa

In the most ancient of Hungarian folktales when the youngest of three sons sets out to explore the world, his mother packs for him “hamuban sült pogácsa” or biscuits baked in the ashes of a familiar fireplace. On my most recent trip to Hungary I encountered several homemade versions among the hors d’oeuvres served before the Christmas…

Cooking with Grandma: Padlizsánkrém

I’m going to Budapest for the holidays this year and I’m pretty excited about a handful of things. The villamos trolley-cars will be decorated with strings of sparkling Christmas lights. Wine mulled with winter spices will be available at any time on virtually any street corner. The sun will set well before Széchenyi bathhouse closes and steam from the…

Lunch by the Danube: Határcsárda in Szentendre

My trip to Hungary this summer was different from those before. It was my first visit in 3 years, my first time back after the death of my maternal grandparents with whom I stayed every summer since we moved from Budapest in ’99. It was my first time going back as a world traveler, a food obsesionada,…