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Taste Hungary: Culinary Walk

I signed up for a culinary walk with Taste Hungary about 2 weeks before my trip and it was a good thing I did, because I later found out that September is their busiest month and most of the tours were sold out on the days that I was in Budapest.

The tour began at 10:00am and we were advised to meet our guide just inside the main entrance of the Central Market 15 minutes prior.  When I arrived, I found out that the maximum number of people in a group is 6, so they had actually separated us out into 3 different groups that day because there were 14 people in total.  One thing that I found strange is that they had arranged for 2 full groups of 6 and then the 13th and 14th person were put into the 3rd group.  I was fortunate enough to be in the 3rd group, so it was more of a private tour than a group tour, but I felt it was a bit unfair since we would likely not be able to try as many food items since we had a smaller number of people, and our guide would also receive less gratuities in the end. 

Our guide started the tour by bringing us to the second floor for a view of the entire market.  He gave us a brief history of the place and told us about some of the other markets in Budapest, which he said wasn’t necessarily cheaper in price than the main Central Market.  He also told us that many of the stalls shared the same owners so it wasn’t necessary to go through every stall to find the best prices.

The first stop we made was to try a local street food called Lángos, which our guide mentioned is like the Hungarian version of pizza.  It consists of deep fried dough topped with a variety of toppings, the most common being sour cream and cheese.  We tried this version and I realized that Hungarian sour cream is very different from the sour cream we have at home, so I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t overly heavy. 

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To wash this down, our guide insisted that we needed to try some Unicum next. According to our guide, this strong, bitter liquor was used in the past as a prescription for many ailments.  Today, it is regarded as a national drink, which is quite evident based on the number of different gift boxes and gift sets I saw at the airport.  Unicum is 40% alcohol and at 10:30am in the morning, it was just a tad too strong for me.  Interestingly enough, there was a table of retired men sitting at the table next to our when we tried the Unicum and although it was only 10:30am in the morning, each of them had a tall glass of beer and sat around chatting as they consumed their beer.  This was quite interesting to me, as you just wouldn’t see this back home.

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We continued on by walking through the main floor of the Central Market, which consisted of quite a few butcher stalls. I learned about mangalica, a local breed of Hungarian pig and we eventually ended up at a sausage stall to try a selection of local meats, including mangalica and horse.

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From here, we made our way to a popular local restaurant for lunch.  We started off with some soup and since I hadn’t tried goulash yet, I decided this uld be the perfect time, since my guide mentioned that this place had really good goulash.  I was a bit surprised at the consistency as I thought goulash was supposed to be thicker, and more stew like, but according to our guide, traditional Hungarian goulash is supposed to be a soup.

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Next, we got to try a pepper sausage, a liver sausage, and some pork knuckle.  This came with an assortment of pickles and pickled vegetables to help alleviate the heaviness of the meat.  The pepper sausage is the favourite of most people and I can definitely see why. It was flavourful and juicy and had just the right amount of spice.  The liver sausage wasn’t my favourite but it was also very delicious.  It was stuffed with rice, which made the flavour of the sausage more mild.  The pork knuckle was a little disappointing for me as I felt it was quite dry. Our guide brought a variety of pickles and he said that one of them was a mini watermelon.

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After lunch we were taken to a local chocolate shop for some specialty chocolates.  They had a large variety of unique flavours.  We decided to take the chocolates to go and enjoy them at our next destination – Auguszt Cukrászda.  This place has a long history, having been around since the 1800s.  The high ceilings and large windows made the place feel classy and elegant.  We tried the famous Hungarian Dobos cake, the first butter cream cake in the world, with alternating layers of butter cream and chocolate.  The second cake we tried was a fluffy and light cheese cake, which was the perfect complement to the Dobos cake.  They told us that it was made of cottage cheese, which made me realize that all dairy products in Europe must be very different from the dairy products we have at home.

After dessert, we made our way to our final destination – the Tasting Table.  Here we tried 3 different kinds of Hungarian wine, which were all very delicious.  However, the pumpkin seed oil they served us stole the show.  It was so delicious that I ended up buying 2 bottles to take home with me!

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The whole tour took about 4 hours and included a great deal of food and some walking.  The distance we covered wasn’t large and I don’t think we ever walked more than 10 minutes at a time.  The tour was everything I expected and more and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and all of the information the guide passed on to us. 

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