There is a dearth in my photo stream. And until now, there has been a similar gaping omission on this page… I haven’t written about langos.
The reason is twofold. Only one is the lack of photo – these magnificent deep fried bundles were simply not in front of me long enough to shoot. The second is that the long weekend I spent in Budapest back in May with a couple of lunatic girlfriends had slipped into that “what goes on tour stays on tour” folder. Although shenanigans were essentially innocent, it includes many moments that I’d just love to lock up in a mind box, to be drawn upon in my old age when I’m in need of a giggle.
But a colleague recently travelled to Hungary, and I found I could not let him visit without tasting langos. Those delicious thoughts came tumbling back, and then partnered with my discovery of langos in a Christmas market in Berlin, and finally having a shareable photo (that never comes close to depicting the crisp deep-fried cloud of airy dough), I now have a post coming together.
Budapest is most definitely a city for food lovers. Most travel in cooler times, and immerse themselves into the world of paprika; comfort food like gulyás and halászlé, pörkölt, chicken paprikash and of course kolbász sausages. Others are lured by the exceptional goose liver products (libamáj), perfectly partnered with a glass of Tokaji (dessert wine). These two Hungarian delicacies give French foie gras and Sauternes a nudge – no mean feat. Those with a sweet tooth will go for kürtőskalács, or chimney-stacks – cinnamon spiked pastries found at Christmas markets – or perhaps the finer pastries like Dobos and Esterházy tortes. There is a deep spectrum of styles and flavours to Hungarian cuisine – it can be hearty or refined, structured or loose, smoky or sweet, intense or delicate – sometimes all on the same plate.
I loved all those foods and more, but the simple, humble langos will be the delicacy that will draw me back to Hungary. These inexpensive deep fried street snacks resemble wonky thick-crust pizza, and are usually slathered with sour cream and grated cheese. They are crisp on the outside, doughnutty-soft in the middle, with a contrast of toppings on offer that can take your palate through a trip of salty-meaty-sour, creamy-earthy-herbaceous or perhaps sticky-bitter-sweet.
After a little look around the internet, I discovered that there are others who share my obsession, and it seems the langos love is being spread around the world little by little. There are now cult-worshipped food trucks and market stalls in New York, Seattle, Melbourne, Singapore and Taiwan. I’m yet to see one in Dubai though, so if anyone knows of where I might be able to track one down, please let me know. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for you from a Budapest blog, plus their tip for the best Langos in Hungary. If you are only hitting up the capital, then your best bets are the central market, Retro Bufe or a stall I found by Club Akvarium.
Finally, I’m not going to write an extensive culinary travel piece on Budapest, but I do pass on the following advice:
- Onyx restaurant, with attached Gerbeaud cafe has one Michelin star, and serves up modern Hungarian cuisine. It is lush and conservative without being uppity, and positioned right in the heart of the posh V district. A good pick for your one splash-out dinner.
- Borkonyha Winekitchen is a treat – despite their extensive list of Hungarian wines, their food is constantly changing and evolving due to seasons and styles. Although essentially Hungarian, external European influence is evident. Almost on a par with Onyx, but more contemporary and casual.
- Taste Hungary have a wide range of food and wine tours available, not just in Budapest but all over Hungary. We did their city dinner tour, and found it exceptional value. Also great for photography enthusiasts as you will delve into some lesser-known areas of the city.
- The ruin bars are clogged with tourists (mainly stag parties and hens’ nights), but they are fun, gritty, and often have good street food and live music. Szimple kert is possibly the most famous, but also look for places like band venue Durerkert and arty little Kék Ló
- Avoid palinka unless you know exactly what you are ordering, or have the stamina of an ox. 80% of it is paint stripper. The other 20% is quite refined and delicious but is 80% alcohol.
- Don’t be scared of ordering Hungarian wine. It’s not all sweet Tokaji or dense red Egri Bikaver (bull’s blood) like you might have been told. There are plenty of run-of-the-mill varietals like Chardonnay and Syrah, but look for the herbacious dry white Hárslevelü, appley Furmint, and for reds, the bold and deep Kékfrankos. And even if you don’t usually dig sweet wine, give a 6 puttonyos Tokaji a nudge – it may just blow you away.