Food Destinations #2 –My local greenmarket: BUDAPEST, Hungary
It’s been a while I’ve posted in English (I do in Hungarian), I know and I need to admit, the one and only reason for that is my own laziness I’m afraid. Anyway, I was really angry with myself when I missed the first round of this event a couple of months back but was so happy to discover that there is a second round featuring our local greenmarkets this time. Inventor and host of the Food Destinatios event, Maki (who is a Japanese American ex-Tokyoite, ex-New Yorker, currently living in Switzerland) at I was just really hungry, wrote in her announcement:” Ask yourself the question: If my favorite foodie/food blogger came to my town, where would I take him/her?”
Now how great is this: I didn’t really need to use my imagination as that is exactly what happened. Danielle writes her lovely foodblog Habeas Brulee from New York, Brooklyn and she came to Hungary with her family to see the small village in the Eastern part of Hungary where her grandmother was born. A couple of weeks ago, Danielle still in New York, me still in Brussels (where I live at the moment), a few e-mails back and forth, and we have easily arranged to meet in Budapest. So this Tuesday, I took her, her boyfriend and her cute little brother, Jordan to the Central Market Hall „Nagycsarnok” which is the biggest and most famous one in Budapest. We have had a great time I think and I myself enjoyed it very much to see the market from a little different perspective, through the critical eyes of a foreigner. As her grandma and also her mother cook Hungarian food at home, Danielle is familiar with Hungarian cooking, the typical dishes, main ingredients and spices to be used, but still, I tried to show her a few things that are maybe not so obvious as paprika and salami.
There are many nice markets in Budapest, the Central Market Hall being definitely the most beautiful and impressive. It’s not really a farmers greenmarket in classical terms, because that’s not so common in the city (rather in the countryside), although in the back of the hall you will also find a few farmers selling their own homegrown produce. At the market, you will find all kinds of products, mainly food but also souvenirs, their quality ranging from bad to superb.
The beautiful building itself was built in 1897 and has been completely restored in 1994. You can read extensively about the history here. Obviously it’s also very touristy although that doesn’t mean at all that locals wouldn’t do their shopping here. They do. I do. However, you need to be aware of and prepared for huge tourist crowds, all of them trying to buy their paprika. The market is a little bit more quiet in the first half of the week and during the day. Try to avoid Saturday morning, that’s when most of the people do their food shopping for the weekend and it’s so very crowded. It’s closed on Sundays.
We buy our fruits and vegetables here –you will be familiar with most of them, nothing exotic on that side–but there are some special Hungarian varieties, which you won’t find anywhere else. You will see huge mountains of sweet white peppers which we eat as they are, in salads and sandwiches and use also for cooking – for our famous goulash or for lecsó, the Hungarian ratatouille, a very typical summer dish. In general, fruits and vegetables are extremely tasty because of the good climate and a lot of sun. Try some white peaches or plums during summer, pears and grapes int he fall. During summertime you will see bags of shredded summer squash –we use it for one of our typical summer dishes, tökfőzelék, a vegetable dish seasoned with fresh dill and thickened with sour cream. You will also see bunches of parsnip like roots – that’s parsley root which is not available in most parts of the world. We cook it in chicken soup and stocks, it gives a fantastic earthy flavor. Try it and don't tell the secret to anyone..
Now over to the meat section (hope this is allowed in a post about greenmarkets…) There are dozens of butcher stalls, selling fresh meat or poultry and hundreds of different cured, smoked, yummy sausages, salami, ham and some interesting stuff which might sound bizarre for some nations. You will for example see piles of cracklings, the crunchy fried fat skin of either pork or goose. We eat it with fresh bread and red onions. Or you will find (in case you recognize it) pieces of smoked beef tongue behind the counter, pig feet, tripe, and co. As for the sausages, there are many brands, it’s not at all easy to find the best quality. I really recommend asking some locals for tips; you will always find friendly people who will be happy to advise you. The butcher stalls also sell blocks of foie gras –the goose liver is of fantastic quality (did you know that a great part of French foie gras comes from Hungary?) and is much cheaper then in other countries, it’s very worth to purchase some.
Downstairs you will smell the difference – fish+ pickles. Try the pickles – homemade pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, pickled stuffed peppers, very typical, very good.
All in all, a quick summary- try and buy: spicy sausage (kolbász), pickles, foie gras, paprika spice, Hungarian honey, Hungarian white peppers, curd cheese made of sheep milk (juhtúró), bunches of dried chili and garlic.
Don’t: saffron (it’s not the real thing), exotic fruits, wine (preferably in a special wine store).
Come to Budapest for more!
Danielle, how did you like the cserkészkolbász:)?
Central Market Hall