To understand Hungarian cuisine, we have to take a peek into the past. Today's Hungarian cuisine is a synthesis of ancient Asiatic components mixed with Germanic, Italian, and Slavic elements. The food of Hungary can be considered a melting pot of the continent, with its own original cuisine from the Magyar people.
The nomadic past of the Hungarians is apparent in the prominence of meat (mainly poultry, pork and beef) in Hungarian cuisine as well as the amount of dishes cooked over open fire – just think of goulash, pörkölt (stew) or the fisherman's soup. In the 15th century King Matthias and his Neapolitan wife introduced new ingredients and spices like garlic and onions – things we couldn't imagine a proper Hungarian dish without today. Later, great numbers of Saxons, Armenians, Italians, Jews and Serbs settled in the Hungarian basin and in Transylvania and brought with them their own recipes. Elements of ancient Turkish cuisine were adopted during the Ottoman era, in the form of sweets, the cake called bejgli, the eggplant, stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage called töltött káposzta. Hungarian cuisine was influenced by Austrian cuisine under the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well; dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed from Austrian cuisine, and vice versa.
Hungarian cuisine today shows great regional variety – and this promises a lot of excitement for gastro-curious travellers. Just take a look at the Northern parts of the Great Plain. This is where our most famous dish, the Goulash soups comes from, developed by the local herdsmen. Don't compare the Hungarian goulash to other kinds of goulash you might have eaten elsewhere, by the way – the original one is a rich and spicy soup, best made out of the meat of the Hungarian Grey cattle. The area has given birth to the Hortobágyi pancake as well, a savoury crêpe filled with veal, today usually served as a starter. Or the slambuc, a hearty dish cooked on open fire out of potatoes and noodles, flavoured with some nice bacon. The region is proud to give home to Hungary's finest plums (in Szatmár) and apples (Szabolcs) – no lack of great pálinkas for the folks of the Eastern Plain.