Starters include the noteworthy goose liver – after France, Hungary is its second-biggest producer. Many restaurants feature it on the menu, while cans of creamy foie gras pâté make a perfect souvenir. Of the many soups, stand-outs are goulash with beef cubes and vegetables, fish with carp, catfish or pike-perch, chicken, bean and a cold fruit type popular in summer.
For mains, Hungary is proud of its stews, made from slow-cooked beef, or chicken and paprika, the signature csirkepaprikás. Stuffed cabbage, cabbage rolls filled with minced pork, features in the colder months, while lecsó, Hungarian ratatouille, is popular in late summer. Pig-slaughtering is a ritual gathering resulting in tasty sausages, bacon, crackling and brawn. Traditional thick pottages can be concocted from lentils, potatoes, peas, beans, cabbage or pumpkin, served with an egg or sliced sausage.
Hungary’s favourite pasta is túrós csusza, with curd cheese and bacon. Layered potatoes, rakott krumpli, come with eggs and sausage, while paprikás krumpli is a paprika potato stew with sausage. Uniting many dishes is the fact that Hungarians like to top almost everything with a touch of sour cream.
On the sweeter side, Hungary excels in desserts. Hearty Gundel pancakes are a walnut/rum mixture smothered in dark-chocolate sauce, Somlói sponge cake is vanilla-flavoured with chocolate sauce, rum and raisins, while túrógombóc are sweet cottage-cheese dumplings with a sweet sour-cream sauce. The most iconic cakes are the classic Dobos and Esterházy, while Hungary also invented the walnut-apricot zserbó slice and the apricot-cottage-cheese Rákóczi túrós.
As for street food, savoury lángos is a deep-fried dough topped with sour cream, garlic and cheese, sweet kürtőskalács is a chimney cake rolled in sugar, vanilla, chocolate or walnuts, and Hungarian strudel, rétes, comes in cherry, apple or poppy-seed varieties.