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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Hungary

Hungary Food and Drink

Hungarian food is probably best known for its generous use of paprika, but its influences come from far and wide, including France, Turkey, other Central European countries and neighbouring Serbia. In addition to paprika; sour cream and garlic also feature widely in Hungarian cuisine. The most popular meat is generally pork, with chicken a close second. As Hungary is landlocked, fish do not play a large part in the Hungarian diet, although freshwater species such as carp are quite commonly used.

Wine is taken seriously in Hungary, and the country’s many vineyards produce a wide range of distinctive wines that range from full-bodied reds made from the native Kékfrancos grape to rich, sweet whites such as Tokaj.

There is a large choice of places to eat in Hungary that range from inexpensive snackbár or büfé (self-service establishments) to fine dining eateries. Cukrászda (patisseries), serving cakes and pastries, and kávéház (coffee shops) are also popular. Elegant Vienna-style coffee houses serving coffee and rich pastries are common in the capital. Gerbeaud, a refined but busy Art Nouveau institution, is Budapest's most famous coffee house.

Specialities

Many of Hungary’s most famous dishes rely on a generous dash of red paprika, although Hungarian goulash tends to be quite different from that served under the same name in Western Europe.

Halászlé (a spicy soup made with freshwater fish and paprika).
• Gulyás (Hungarian goulash is a hearty beef, capsicum and paprika soup; Western goulash is called pörkölt or tokány).
Gundel palacsinta (pancake served with walnuts, raisins, lemon rind, chocolate sauce and rum).
Paprikás csirke (paprika chicken).
Kolbász (sausage spiced with paprika).
Tyúkhúsleves (chicken soup with vegetables and pasta).
Jókai bableves (kidney bean soup).
Hortobágyi húsos palacsinta (‘Hortobagy pancake’ – pork or chicken in a thin pancake and baked with paprika and sour cream).
Galuska (egg dumplings).
Töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage).

Things to know

There are no fixed licensing hours. Minors are allowed to go into bars but will not be served alcohol. Most bars in Budapest offer table service. Egészségedre! is the Hungarian equivalent of ‘Cheers!’

Tipping

Tips of 10 to 15% are expected in restaurants, although simply rounding up the bill is acceptable for taxi fares and for small bills in bars and cafés. Don't leave the money on the table in restaurants; tell the waiter or waitress the amount you wish to pay, including the tip. If you say ‘thank you’ when paying a bill it will be assumed that you do not want any change back.

Drinking age

18.

Regional drinks

Hungary has a wide range of very palatable home-produced wines as well as many different types of fruit brandy.

Tokaji (strong dessert wine).
Bikavér (meaning 'Bull's Blood', a strong red wine).
Pálinka (brandy) comes in barack (apricot), szilva (plum) körte (pear) and cseresznye (cherry) flavour.
Sör (beer, mostly imported).
Unicum (herb liqueur).
Villány (good quality full-bodied red wine).
Pezsgö (sparkling wine like Champagne).
Ásványviz (bottled fizzy mineral water).