Just as Budapest, once a prized jewel of the Ottoman Empire, remains a gilded feast for the eyes, the food in town is likewise sumptuous and awe inspiring. From thick rich soups to stuffed peppers and decadent desserts, Budapest is a city of many food pleasures. And the folks at Culinary Hungary offer wonderful small group cooking classes that include a tour of Budapest’s Central Market.
Andrew, our guide and instructor, met us in the middle of Budapest’s sprawling, world-renowned food market. With a big welcoming smile and obvious excitement for the local food culture, Andrew approached us and offered a handshake. His other hand carried a large empty shopping basket that he promised to help fill before our class.
He wasted no time taking us upstairs to sample a few local delicacies (including Lángos – fried dough with shredded cheese and sour cream) before leading us through the market as we collected items for our class.
Along the way he treated us to a few stories about sour cherries, sausage, fish, and how he learned to cook and value food. Not only did we fill Andrew’s basket and our stomachs, but our heads were filled with information about the local products, the special market office where they test and certify the safety of local mushrooms, and other fine details of Budapest’s Central Market. We’d preselected our class menu from a list of choices on the Culinary Hungary website. So once we’d toured the market, collecting the ingredients for our class along the way, we caught a taxi across the river and arrived at the apartment where Culinary Hungary holds its classes.
It’s actually the home of Agnes Barath, the founder of Culinary Hungary. In her kitchen, with Andrew instructing us, we first sampled a local liqueur and then got down to work chopping and prepping.
Our menu included “Jókai style” bean soup (a local specialty), bell peppers stuffed with beef mince, and Somlói Galuska, a kind of Hungarian Tiramisu made with layers of homemade sponge cake soaked in rum, raisins, crushed nuts, homemade whipped cream, and melted chocolate.
Overall, the cooking experience with Culinary Hungary is relaxed and friendly, but Agnes and Andrew are both trained culinary professionals, so their experience is solidly grounded in proper tradecraft, but steeped in the practicality of the local foodways. I’d never worked with a “Y-peeler” vegetable peeler and was encouraged to give it a try. I’ve since fully converted, and banished all traditional peelers from our kitchen back in Dublin. Thanks, Andrew.
Working in Agnes’s kitchen gives you a chance to see how the locals cook, but beyond that it makes the experience that much more intimate, as if you are cooking with friends and not being lectured to. At the end of the class we all sat down to a lovely meal that we’d prepared together.
A few days after our trip an email arrived with the full recipes for all of the dishes we’d learned in our class. And, I’m happy to report that the recipes are so well documented that we’ve been able to recreate the dishes we learned.
After our class with Culinary Hungary, I felt confident enough to take my first draft of a Somlói Galuska to a friend’s party. The recipe was easy to follow, but Andrew had given us enough information that I also felt comfortable tweaking this and that, and putting my own spin on it.
For a real taste of Budapest that you can take home with you, Culinary Hungary offers in-home cooking classes and a market experience that are informative, conversational, relaxed, filling, and, most importantly, empower you to recreate your favorite plates back at home.
text and images by Glenn Kaufmann
The author/editor is indebted to others for the content in this article. While the final product on this page is ours, and we claim full ownership and responsibility for same, what you read here is based on our research, which led us to the following sources of information:
1. Personal Interviews and experiences