Hungarian or Magyar cuisine is the cuisine characteristic of the nation of Hungary and its primary ethnic group, the Magyars. Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, cheeses and honey.
Hungarians are especially passionate about their soups, desserts and pastries and stuffed pancakes (palacsinta), with fierce rivalries between regional variations of the same dish, (like the Hungarian hot fish soup called Fisherman’s Soup or Halászlé, cooked differently on the banks of Hungary’s two main rivers: the Danube and the Tisza). Other famous Hungarian dishes would be Paprikás (paprika stew, meat simmered in thick creamy paprika gravy) served with nokedli (small dumplings), gulyás (goulash), palacsinta (pancakes served flambéed in dark chocolate sauce filled with ground walnuts) and Dobos Cake (layered sponge cake, with chocolate buttercream filling and topped with a thin caramel slice).
Two remarkable elements of Hungarian cuisine that are hardly noticed by locals, but usually conjure up much enthusiasm amongst foreigners, are different forms of vegetable stews called főzelék as well as cold fruit soups, like cold sour cherry soup.
Meat stews, casseroles, steaks, roasted pork, beef, poultry, lamb or game and the Hungarian sausages (kolbász) and winter salami are a major part of Hungarian cuisine. The mixing of different varieties of meat is a traditional feature of the Hungarian cuisine. Goulash, stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbages or Fatányéros (Hungarian mixed grill on wooden platter) can combine beef and pork, and sometimes mutton. In very exclusive dishes fruits like plums and apricots are cooked with meat or in piquant sauces/stuffings for game, roasts and other cuts. Various kinds of noodles and dumplings, potatoes and rice are commonly served as a side dish. The Hungarian cuisine uses a large variety of cheeses, but the most common are túró (a type of quark), cream cheeses, ewe-cheese (juhturó), Emmentaler, Edam and the Hungarian cheeses Trappista and Pálpusztai and Pannonia cheese.
Hungarian food is often spicy, due to the common use of hot paprika. Sweet (mild) paprika is also common. Additionally, the combination of paprika, lard and onions is typical of Hungarian cuisine, and the use of the thick sour cream called tejföl.
In Hungary people usually have a large breakfast. Hungarian breakfast generally is an open sandwich with fresh bread or a toast, butter, cheese or different cream cheeses, túró cheese or körözött (Liptauer cheese spread), cold cuts such as ham, véres hurka (similar to black pudding), liver paté (called májkrém or kenőmájas), bacon, salami, beef tongue, mortadella, disznósajt (head cheese), sausages like kabanos, beerwurst or different Hungarian sausages or kolbász. Even eggs, (fried, scrambled or boiled), French toast called bundáskenyér and vegetables (like peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, radish, spring onion and cucumber) are part of the Hungarian breakfast. Sometimes breakfast is a cup of milk, tea or coffee with pastries, a bun, a kifli or a strudel with jam or honey, or cereal like muesli and perhaps fruit. Children can have rice pudding (tejberizs) or Semolina Cream (tejbegríz) for breakfast topped with cocoa powder and sugar or with fruit syrup. Hot drinks are preferred for breakfast.
Villásreggeli (literally breakfast with fork) is a more luxurious big breakfast given on special occasions or holidays. Often guests are invited. Deviled eggs, cold steak, cold salads, salmon omelette, pancakes, körözött, caviar, foie gras, cheez-its, fruit salads, compote, fruit yoghurt, fruit juices, champagne and pastries, cakes and cookies may be served.
Lunch is the major meal of the day, usually with several courses. Cold or hot appetisers may be served sometimes (for example fish, egg or liver), then soup. Soup is followed by a main dish. The main dish is a dish including meat and salad, which precedes the dessert. Fruit may follow. In Hungary, pancakes are served as a main dish, not for breakfast. Salad is always served with meat dishes, made of lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions or a simple thin sliced cucumber salad in vinaigrette. Salads like Salade Olivier or potato salad are made of boiled potatoes, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, fried or boiled meat or fish, in vinaigrette, aspic or mayonnaise. These salads are eaten as appetisers or even as a main course.
Some people and children eat a light meal in the afternoon, called uzsonna, usually an open sandwich, pastry, slice of cake or fruit. Dinner is a far less significant meal than lunch. It may be similar to breakfast, usually an open sandwich, yoghurt or virsli (hot dog sausage) with a bun, more seldom a cake, pancakes (palacsinta), and it consists of only one course.