Hungary – or rather Budapest – is quite a surprising city. For those who've not been, the city is actually divided down the middle by the blue Danube, creating effectively two cities: Buda and Pest. While in Hungary, there was only one thing that I knew I had to try – goulash.
For me, goulash conjures up memories of Mother's Day back in Melbourne, and specifically to a restaurant in Mornington unpleasantly named “The Garlic Kiss”. At the Garlic Kiss (TGK) for a number of years, my brother, mother and I have tucked in to one of TGK's most-loved dishes: spaetzle and goulash. Combined with red wine, my little family unit have spent mothers day silently supping and thoroughly enjoying this hearty, warming dish.
So upon arrival, I knew that if Hungary's goulash was anything like the Kisses, I would be eating goulash for days.
Having been quite restricted in Western Europe in a budgetary sense, Eastern Europe breathed life back into our funds. Food, accommodation – things are CHEAP; so while walking around the Castle Hill area of Buda, when we stumbled across a gorgeous, cosy restaurant in which to defrost our bones and stomachs, which had been frozen by the European autumn (not even winter!) we said “yes'm”.
Seated on a banquette and surrounded by rich Hungarians, French tourists and other well-to-do foreigners, we started by ordering drinks (a Hungarian red at EU8.00) and then we got down to business. For entree, I ordered goulash soup (the only goulash entree on the menu) and for main a macadamia-encrusted breast of chicken with short noodles, vegetables and a red wine jus. Mr Von S has the most buttery pumpkin soup I've ever tasted, and a goulash main.
My goulash soup entree was served in a very novel way – in a pail with its own soup ladle, meaning I ended up with two and a bit bowls of the stuff. Not at all what I was expecting, the broth-based dish had swirls of oil and lashings of paprika floating above tender pieces of pork, vegetables and short pasta. Certainly not the hearty goulash of The Kiss, but an experience into 'real' Hungarian goulash soup. Mr Von S's goulash was incredibly similar to my entree, hold the soup. Once again, tender pork, vegetables and spaetzle, with a rich gravy.
So after a rather underwhelming goulash experience, I wasn't too sure that Budapest had anything else that could really pique my interest.
Not being the savoury-fiend that Mr Von Strudel is, he lapped up the opportunity to sink his teeth into more Hungarian salami than you could poke a tooth-pick at. However, while at a market hall waiting for Mr Von S to get his meat fix, we decided to wander upstairs to the food court to sample a dish a tour guide had told us of.
Susie (her English name) had said that this particular dish was what Hungarians ate after a big night out – a Hungarian cheeky cheeseburger if you will. On this particular day my feet had gone completely numb: it was pouring with rain, and we were feeling a bit glum (yes, we chose the wrong time of year to explore north-eastern Europe). But of course, we all know what makes Fifi Von Strudel happy. It was time to taste Langos.
Simply put, langos is a deep-fried flat bread, usually served with cheese, meat or sour cream. It can also be served sweet, with powdered sugar or jam. I chose cheese and ham. I am so glad I did. Each langos is made while you wait, meaning there may be a delay in getting the langos to ones' stomach, in fear of oil-burnt mouth-roofs, but believe me, the wait is well worth it. Eating langos made me think of eating hot jam donuts from the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne or from the Sunday Camberwell Market. The greasiness, the warmth, the doughiness. Salivating. While. Writing.
So friends, when in Hungary, one need not be (hungry...get it?) – wrap your chops around a langos or two (just 70 euro cents for cheese) and try some Hungarian wine, which was also surprisingly good!