A list of best vacation stops isn’t complete without shopping. The local market is an outsider’s view of what it’s like to live inside a place–at least from my experience. Whether it’s farmer’s market produce, baked goods, herbs and spices, or crafts, they all tell me a tale of not only the present culture, but the history of a people.
Hungary’s Budapest Market Hall (also called the Central Market Hall) was designed by the architect, Samu Pecz, who had the goal of making the structure both beautiful and useful–a goal I agreed he met! The exterior has an amazing Neo-Gothic style that made it one of the grandest covered markets at the end of 19th century Europe.
Like hundreds of thousands of other visitors to Budapest, I had shopping high on my list of must-dos, and made the market one of my stops. Here are a couple of the things I had to buy.
- Paprika, as I’d learned in my grandmother’s kitchen, is an integral part of all Hungarian cooking. Much to my surprise I found that paprika is a form of red pepper, although typically Hungarian paprika has a sweet mild flavor instead of the hot taste of North American red peppers.
- Half-sharp paprika is the Hungarian spice of choice for tangier tastes.
- Celery salt–which I thought I’d discovered on my own, but likely had instinctively added as a cook to make things taste like Grandma’s–is popular in various foods such as potato salad and coleslaw.
- Hungarian embroidery has been a traditional art for centuries, with a robe belonging to King Stephen I (reigned from 1000 – 1038 A.D.), Hungary’s first king, on display in the Hungarian National Museum. This skill too, I learned at my grandmother’s knee!
- Hungarian embroidery from the noble houses was stylistic, featuring the symmetrical forms of the Renaissance and the asymmetrical lines of Turkish influence. Villagers throughout Hungary also embroidered, although the styles were simpler and mainly used red, blue and black colors.
- While you’ll find embroidery on some clothing, it was used mainly in household cloths and decoration. A family’s wealth was partially measured by its collection of this type of handcraft.
Enjoy this video from Rick Steves as he takes a walk through the Budapest Market:
Lunch at at the Fakanál Restaurant
There are a number food kiosks in the Budapest Market, however, we’d been booked in to experience a traditional Hungarian meal at Fakanál Restaurant. Situated on the upper level or gallery of the market, this restaurant has gastronomical events throughout the day, starting with a morning feast at 9 a.m. and ending in the early evening with the Wooden Spoon Grand Prix or Cookery Contest Budapest Style. There’s even afternoon cooking classes, which unfortunately we didn’t have time to attend.
- Cold dishes – cold cuts with unique Hungarian tastes, cheeses (Camembert and Trappista as well as smoked), vegetable tray, pickles including pickled cabbage, fresh fruit and breads.
- Goulash soup – one of the signature Hungarian foods. It’s made by browning beef with onions and paprika (other spices to taste), boiling and adding potatoes and vegetables. We like this one with less liquid, so it’s more of a stew. In fact, we call it Hungarian stew, and must have it at the end of August when all of the fresh garden vegetables are available.
- Bean goulash – or as it’s known in my house, bean soup. This one is made with navy beans and smoked meat; we prefer ham and always soak or boil the beans with a ham bone.
- Paprika chicken (may also be beef or pork Pörkölt) is the company meal in my dad’s family. It’s made with chunks of meat, onion, paprika–and in dad’s family has cream and dumplings added for a very rich meal.
- Stuffed cabbage or in other words, cabbage rolls, a Saskatchewan tradition as well Hungarian. The key difference with Hungarian cabbage rolls is the paprika–of course. They’re made with sour cabbage leaves and ground pork, and may also have additional bacon or ham.
- Noodles with fried cabbage – another one of the meals I ate often at my grandmother’s house. The buffet may also have pasta with a soft cheese and cracklings (fried pork rind).
- Layered dishes are popular in many variations too. You’ll find layered green string beans, layered cauliflower, layered cabbage all with hamburger and spices in alternate layers.
- Dessert is the most important part of the meal for my dad–and for many other Hungarians. I enjoyed the varga strudel cake, poppy seed biscuit and strudel that were served.
How did the Budapest Market end up as Staycation Stop #29 on my review of the greatest places I’d visited in summers past? The Hungarian branch of my family tree is important to me, and in this historic hall I learned that I had become–one or way or another–a reasonably good Hungarian cook! And of course, it was a great place to indulge in some good old-fashioned North American retail therapy.
Map to the Budapest Market – http://www.aviewoncities.com/budapest/centralmarkethall.htm
1093 Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3. I. emelet
Tel/Fax: 06 (1) 217 7860
Mobil: +36 (30) 740 8765
On the Web: http://www.fakanaletterem.hu/en/