LivingTravel7 things to buy at the Great Market in...

7 things to buy at the Great Market in Budapest

Near the Danube River, the Great Market Hall of Budapest is a large food market in an impressive three-story Neo-Gothic building dating from the late 19th century. The ground floor has stalls selling meat, cheese, cakes, wine, spirits, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Work up an appetite as you browse traditional Hungarian produce before heading up the stairs to sample hearty dishes like goulash and chicken bell peppers. Here are our top seven items to try and buy while exploring one of Budapest’s must-see places.

Foie gras

While viewed as an expensive (albeit controversial) delicacy in much of the world, libamáj (foie gras made from goose liver) is fairly easy to find in Budapest’s Central Market. It is also extremely affordable. You can expect to pay less than half of what you would pay in the United States or the United Kingdom. Grab a can of this rich buttered paté from any of the meat stalls and top it with fresh kifli, a crescent-shaped bun eaten throughout Hungary.

Kolbash (salchicha)

Sausages are a big problem in Hungary. They are included in the dishes served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and are prepared in stews, soups, salads and cakes. Kolbász is the umbrella term for Hungarian sausage and many different varieties are offered on the market that are served cooked, boiled, cured or smoked. There are tons of stalls selling all sorts of different kinds, including csabai kolbász, a spicy paprika-flavored sausage; Gyulai kolbász, a beechwood smoked sausage from the city of Gyula; and majas hurka, a boiled liver sausage. It’s probably best to try kolbasz while you’re in Hungary to avoid customs complications.

Brandy de Frutas

This traditional Hungarian fruit brandy dates back to the Middle Ages when it was sipped for its medicinal properties. It remains one of the nation’s favorite drinks and you will see it on drink lists in restaurants and bars across the country. Pick up a bottle from the market where some of the stalls will allow you to taste before you buy. It’s typically made from fruits grown in Hungary, including apricots, plums, cherries, and pears, although since it’s a potent spirt (at least 37.5% ABV), you can only detect subtle differences in taste.

Stuffed cabbage (col rellena)

After working up an appetite by hopping from stall to ground floor stall, head upstairs to sample some classic Hungarian dishes. There are several outlets that line the balcony on one side of the hall that serve hearty food like goulash, kolbasz and chicken bell peppers on the benches overlooking the market. Don’t leave without trying some stuffed cabbage. The Hungarian specialty includes cooked cabbage leaves loaded with ground pork and beef, rice, tomatoes and sauerkraut. As with many Hungarian dishes, it is generously flavored with paprika. This comforting dish is usually eaten in winter and is definitely worth a try when you are at the market as it is difficult to put together at home.

Magyar Tojasos Metelt (Fideos Húngaros)

Like pasta, Hungarian egg noodles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and you can pick up packages from the market to create your own Magyar-inspired meals at home. Made from flour, eggs, and salt, the noodles are rolled, pinched, or grated and served in popular dishes like chicken bell peppers and Pörkölt and in soups like Tyúkhúsleves. Look out for Nokedli (German spaetzle-like meatballs), Csipetke (pinched noodles used in soups and stews), and Csiga (small noodles made on special slotted wooden boards).

Red Gold (pasta de pimentón)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a house in Hungary that didn’t have a pipe of arany (red gold) piros in its kitchen. This handy seasoning is a paste made from quality minced paprika and is used to flavor all kinds of traditional dishes like goulash and chicken bell peppers. Add a tablespoon to soups and stews or use to marinate meat and fish. You can buy sweet, smoked, and spicy versions and the tubes make a great, affordable gift for food-loving friends and family.

Cheesecake (bollos de queso)

For a snack to go, choose a Sajtos Pogácsa, a light, fluffy and comforting cheese bun that is served crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. These savory bite-sized buns are usually served with hearty soups and stews, but they’re also delicious on their own.

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