We had goulash a couple of different ways when we were in Budapest and neither of them were anywhere close to what we’d eaten before. In Hungary, goulash is actually a soup with beef, potatoes, and carrots in rich broth. We also found restaurants that offered a heartier version of the dish that is served as a stew, which is what westerners envision when they hear the word goulash. The key to the dish is the paprika, which comes in mild, medium, and hot varieties. For our version of goulash stew, we chose to use hot paprika, which we brought home with us from Budapest. Another thing that we found common in Hungary was to have both potatoes as well as rice, noodles, or dumplings in addition, which helps to soak up all of the flavor of the sauce. We think that the dish turned out to be quite delicious and will certainly make it many times in the future.
2 lbs Beef Bottom Round Roast – trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven (or stew pot) on the stove to medium-high heat. Add the meat to the oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Sautee the meat until it is browned on all sides. While the meat is cooking, sprinkle it with the flour and continue to stir to even out the flour and remove any lumps. If necessary, add more oil to keep the meat from sticking. Add the onions, garlic, peppers, and paprika and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, tomatoes, and beef stock to the pot and stir. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate anything that might have gotten stuck when the meat sautéed. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper if necessary. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer for an additional 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Serve with rice.
It certainly shouldn’t be surprising that you can find just about any type of cuisine that you would like in a city the size of Budapest. Especially in the tourist areas, you can find restaurants featuring traditional Hungarian dishes, but you are just as likely to find Italian, Asian, Mediterranean, and even Mexican restaurants. It is also not surprising that you can find plenty of American fast food restaurants throughout the city. When it comes to Hungarian food, it is definitely meat and starch (potato/rice) forward and vegetables are almost an afterthought. One of the things that did surprise us were the number of restaurants specializing in burgers that we found everywhere. Not fast food restaurants, but just restaurants that offered many varieties of burgers on their menus.
Goulash soup was probably the most common item that could be found on almost any Hungarian menu, but it is truly a soup and not what most of us think of when we hear the word goulash. You will also find meat stews listed and sometimes it will even be listed as goulash stew. Another common menu item is Chicken Paprikash, which is chicken and cottage cheese noodles covered in a paprika sour cream sauce. Cottage cheese noodles are pretty similar to spätzle. You will find many menu items that feature “letcho”, which is a pepper and tomato stew that can be combined with different proteins or eaten on its own. Another common item that you find as an appetizer is duck liver pate with the local flatbread, very similar to naan.
Needless to say, there are plenty of other choices for Hungarian dishes including boar cheeks with dumplings and lamb soup with duck liver dumplings. There are also Hungarian deserts such as an almond cake, but one of the most famous is probably the chimney cake. We got our chimney cake from a food truck where it was cooked over burning embers. It is then coated with your choice of flavors and we decided on a simple cinnamon sugar. Since burgers were so prevalent, we did decide to get a burger one day and since we like spicy food, we ordered a spicy burger. It turned out to be so spicy that we were barely able to eat it.
With six days in Budapest, we didn’t limit ourselves to just Hungarian food, but also ate some seafood and Italian food as well. In the main tourist areas, you will sometimes find that the restaurants offer a “tourist menu”, which is usually a three course meal focusing on Hungarian dishes. It is probably focused on those tourists that come from the cruise ships that stop in Budapest where the people only have a single day in the city. We found some of the best restaurants tended to be in the Jewish Quarter and we even ate an excellent meal at an Israeli fusion restaurant called Mazel Tov that was recommended to us by several people.
When visiting Budapest, you will certainly have plenty of options of restaurants to choose from. We definitely enjoyed the different meals that we ate and it would be difficult to choose a favorite, but you should certainly try some of the paprika based dishes. All of the restaurants usually had English as well as Hungarian descriptions as well as German sometimes. Many of the tourist restaurants also include picture menus, but we didn’t find those to be necessary. Fortunately we did a lot of walking during our time in Budapest, otherwise all of the heavy meals might have taken their toll on our wastes.