In photos: The bites of Budapest

In photos: The bites of Budapest

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In Budapest, it can feel like every city site (and every bite) carries one of the city’s stories. We asked Celinne Da Costa of The Nomad’s Oasis to take us through the city on our own Bites & Sights tour, exploring everything from the significance of paprika to the history of ruin bars.

central market hall in Budapest

This is the Central Market Hall, Hungarian’s cathedral of food and where the Budapest “Bites & Sights” tour begins. Built in 1896, this was regarded as “the” marketplace. While Hungarians who live nearby still visit it, nowadays it’s mostly an attraction for visitors to come see traditional Hungarian food as this market has the largest selection by far. Hungarians are great lovers of carbohydrates, mushrooms, paprika, soup, stew, meat, and everything fried and smoked. Our guide joked about the holy trinity in Hungarian cuisine: fat (typically pork), diced onions, and paprika powder. | Photo by Celinne Da Costa

 

Rows of sausage hanging in Budapest

Hungarians are passionate meat eaters, especially of pork. This likely comes from having hard winters where a lot of calories were needed. Summers were also long and full of agricultural work, meaning Hungarians needed heavier dishes to provide enough calories for the heavy field work required in rural areas. Meats are popularly paired with sour foods: the acidic taste is believed to offset the fatty content, so that the mouth and stomach does not feel overloaded. Popular sour food ingredients include cauliflower, squash, plum, sweet corns, peppers, and pickles. | Photo by Celinne Da Costa

 

garlic and paprika hanging in budapest

Did you know that Hungarians invented paprika powder? The Turks brought over the pepper originally during their 16th century invasion, and over time Hungarians accepted the flavour and began using it in their cuisine. When movements against Austrian imperialism started in the early 19th century, paprika powder became a symbolic way for Hungarians to rebel. Paprika powder is red, bright, and strong — a reflection of the Hungarian people — while Austrian food was considered pale and “weak.” Though paprika powder was originally mostly used by rural Hungarians; aristocrats soon began to incorporate it into their dishes to show solidarity. | Photo by Celinne Da Costa

 

basket of ginger in Budapest

Pictured here is ginger, one of the newest food fads in Hungary. As of late, the country has been infected by foreign fashions — this is the decade of international food. Hungary was quite secluded from the rest of the world during the communist era. After the change of regime in 1990, and even more so after the country joined the EU in 2004, the world was all of a sudden wide open: Hungarians were finally allowed to travel (previously, they could only do so once every three years), and international elements perpetrated the country. European cuisines — Greek and Italian being the most popular — reached Hungary and became very popular. After the Mediterranean wave followed Chinese food, and most recently Thai, Indian, and Mexican. | Photo by Celinne Da Costa

 

telephone on desk in Budapest

The Jewish community has had a very deep influence on Hungarian cuisine and culture. It started during the 11th century when King Stephen brought over a small number of Jews to establish the economy. The community grew in the 13th century, after Mongol invasions left Hungary for dead (of 1 million people, only 250,000 survived) and the king invited people from neighboring countries to rebuild the country. Until World War II, there was a flourishing Jewish community in Budapest. Even after the horrors of the war, Jewish presence continued having a profound influence on Hungary. Jewish influence can be especially felt in the culture (many Hungarian musicians and great writers are Jewish) and food, including: goose meat soup, cholent soup, and matzo ball soup, which is offered on the tour. | Photo by Celinne Da Costa

 

customers in a ruin bar in Budapest

Ruin bars are a relatively new phenomenon that started about 18 years ago in the Jewish district. The district had been falling apart in the aftermath of World War II, and had many deteriorating and abandoned buildings. Some savvy Hungarians decided to revive the Jewish quarter by creating bars out of these partially ruined buildings. Ruin bars were a practical business idea because they needed a relatively small investment to get started: many are decorated with flea market decor and furniture that previous dwellers left behind. The atmosphere of the ruin bars makes them very important to contemporary Hungarian culture. During the era of communism, going out to eat and drink was frowned on. Ruin bars have played an important role in creating relaxed environments that Hungarians can socialize in. The popularity of the previously underground pubs has spread like fire, and they are now a go-to nightlife choice for locals and visitors alike. | Photo by Celinne Da Costa

Budapest Tours | Urban Adventures

Get schooled on all things to do in Budapest, by Urban Adventures. Our fresh, local perspective on this increasingly popular Eastern European city will have you throwing out the guidebook and getting your teeth into Budapest’s incredible food and flavours, tastes and traditions (and sometimes quite literally!). Tour Budapest with the people who really know what it’s like to live here — the locals.

About author
Profile photo of Celinne Da Costa

Celinne Da Costa

Italian-Brazilian circumnavigating the globe by couchsurfing via my social network. I write about travel + the art of being human.

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