While Andy and I were in Rome last year, the pizza making and food tour we took was one of our favorite activities. It was such an interesting way to learn about the city and the culture. So when we started planning our recent trip to Budapest and I came across a food tour there, we jumped on it. I knew very little about Budapest or Hungarian cuisine, so we signed up for their culinary walk for our second day in the city to get an introduction to our week.
Liquor before lunch
The tour started at the Central Market Hall, which is the largest covered food market in Budapest. It was built in 1896 and even continued to operate during communist times. It’s an impressive building with three different floors selling mostly food plus a group of stalls that sell souvenirs and other non-food items.
Despite the 10am start time, our guide Barbara started us off with a shot of Unicum. It’s a digestive, so traditionally you drink it after a meal, and like most digestive liquors, the taste was a bit harsh. But it has an interesting history. The Zwack family, who originally made Unicum, were forced to give the recipe to the government during the communist era. However, they gave a fake recipe and then fled the country. Years later, post communism, they returned to Hungary and restored the liquor to its original recipe, much to the delight of everyone who had been drinking the fake stuff for so long.
Next up, Barbara asked if everyone liked garlic. I LOVE garlic, so I was excited already. She brought out two big hot layers of dough, and the garlicky smell that wafted over was like heaven. This was a traditional Hungarian langos, and it was beyond delicious.
Horses, cows, and a fuzzy pig
Then we moved on to the meat portion of the tour. We followed Barbara through a section of butcher stalls before stopping at one where she got a sample of salamis for us to try.
The tray had four different kinds of salami from three different animals. From left to right in the photo below they are cattle, pork, horse, spicy pork. Yep, I ate horse meat. I expected it to taste gamey, but it just tasted like a slightly drier version of the beef variety. My favorite was the spicy pork.
Speaking of pork, did you know there’s a fuzzy pig? Apparently in Hungary they have a different variety of pig that is fuzzy, almost like sheep wool. The pork is healthier because it’s lower in cholesterol, which is a big deal in a country where people eat so much meat. Plus, that’s a funny looking pig!
Barbara continued to show us around the different areas of the market. There were stalls selling pickled foods, fruits and vegetables, stalls dedicated to Hungarian spices including the dominating paprika, and we got to taste different cheeses before leaving the market hall to explore farther.
>>Check out more unusual things to do in Budapest.
Lunch and two more kinds of meat
The meats, cheeses, garlic dough, and liquor were all just an appetizer. Next up was lunch. Our guide took us to a butcher-turned-restaurant that featured a wide variety of meat, potatoes, veggies, and other side dishes, all to be eaten while standing at bar-level tables. We were a group of six, plus the guide, so she grabbed us a bunch of different things to try. Duck, turkey, potatoes, rice, a few veggies, plus a few garnishes like horseradish. I tried really hard to only get tiny portions of everything, but I think I still over ate.
This place was so tasty, Andy and I returned later in the week for lunch.
At this point, I was pretty full. But I looked at my watch and we still had an hour or so left on the tour. More food! Logically after lunch, we went in search of sweets. Barbara took us to a coffee shop with ornate decorations and retrieved several different cakes and pastries for us. I’d love to tell you what each of these were, but the food coma was taking over, and I’m lucky I remembered to take a picture before shoveling the sugary goodness into my mouth.
As if that wasn’t enough, our next stop was a candy shop. The candy makers were right behind the counter rolling out big slabs of flavored sugar on a warm surface, gradually making it into tiny rods. They were then chopped up into even tinier bite-sized pieces. It was interesting to watch, and I may have eaten half of their free sample bowl. I didn’t get any of these pretty lollipops, but I did buy a couple of packets of the smaller candies to bring home.
We finished off the day with a wine tasting. Hungary has some famous wineries, and even though I don’t know much about wine, the three we tried were really nice. It was the perfect, relaxing end to four hours of amazing food and interesting history about Budapest.
If there was any doubt left in my mind about the value of food tours, they were gone before this tour was even half over. I loved the small group (the maximum size they allow in one group is six plus the guide) because it meant it was really easy to talk to everyone, and it was easy to ask questions. Our guide even sent us away with a list of all the places we visited, plus several other restaurant and bar recommendations. We never could’ve found all these cafes on our own, and I’m sure I never would’ve found out about the fuzzy pig or tried horse meat on my own. Food is such an important part of any culture, so taking a food tour was a fun way to experience Budapest.
Thanks to Taste Hungary who provided us with a free tour. All opinions and decisions to eat too much are my own.
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