Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Peppery Paprika and Other Hungarian Delights

Paprika in the making
For me, no trip would be complete without sampling the host country's local culinary delights.  My trip to Budapest was no exception.  I feel as though I ate my way through the week.......and it was so good!

Paprikas Csirke with Galuska

Hungary is known for its paprika so I made sure to sample a few of its paprika laced foods.  We have all heard of goulash and I had eaten it a few times before my Budapest trip. Earlier versions had always been thick like a stew.  The goulash I ate in Hungary was different; it was more like a spicy beef stew.  It was better than the earlier versions I had tasted. The infamous paprika chicken was pretty darn good.  Being a carb lover, it tasted even better when served on top of a pasta dumpling.  What was even better however, was hortobagyi palacsinta, a chicken filled crepe smothered in a peppery cream sauce.  My friend Laura introduced me to this at 21 Maygar and it was probably the best dish I ate during my trip.

Hortobagyi Palacsinta

Spring is asparagus season. I have yet to find fresh asparagus in Albania.  I haven't seen it in the markets and the Albanians I've   asked don't know what asparagus is.  I have found asparagus in the freezer case of Conad where it is imported to us from Italy.  The few times I've tried it I have been so disappointed that I have stopped buying it. Because of this I was so happy to discover that asparagus is abundant in the spring along the Danube River.  While in Budapest I enjoyed several meals of steamed asparagus.  Straight up and unadulterated by sauces, fresh asparagus is a gastronomical delight.

Making Kurtos Kalacs at a neighborhood market
I've found that street foods are often my favorite meals while traveling. Kurtos Kalacs, a hollow honey cake cooked over hot coals, was my Hungarian discovery. One long strip of dough is wrapped around a wooden spindle then baked over the fire until brown.  Dipped in sugar or cinnamon it was a tasty snack.  The fact that the woman cooking them was dressed in traditional garb only added to the experience.

Hungarian wine
Local cappuccino
And let us not forget the drinks and desserts.  I was introduced to Hungarian wines by friends from the Hungarian Embassy here in Tirana.  I'm a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and those that I sampled did not disappoint.  My other favorite beverage is coffee.  Yes, there was a Starbucks next door to my hotel but I found myself preferring local coffees.  Much to my delight, the first cappuccino I ordered outside of Starbucks arrived as a drink layered with foam, coffee, hot milk, and local honey.  It was a surprising combination but I loved it.  And it was pretty too.

Bite sized treats are so easy to eat

Within a weeks time span I ate too many fruit and cheese filled strudels.  They were all bite sized, which made them all the easier to consume. (It was a good thing I did as much walking as I did).  Fruit seemed to play a large role in most desserts and pastries since in addition to the above mentioned strudels, I sampled a strawberry shortcake type dessert with a vanilla custard cream and crispy wafer accompanying the fresh strawberries.  The biggest hit for this chocolate lover, however, was a crepe filled with chocolate sauce and sour cherries.   Now that was a great way to end a meal.  

No comments:

Post a Comment