Hungary is a small, landlocked Eastern European country whose cuisine is largely defined by meats, stews, pastries, and one very important spice: paprika. The ground red pepper spice was first introduced to Hungary by the Turks in the 16th century. They adopted it as their own, and now Hungarian paprika is an essential ingredient in a host of traditional dishes, including beef goulash (the country’s national dish), kolbász (pork sausage), and halászlé (Fisherman’s Soup made with river fish). Its red-orange color and subtle heat is part of the fabric of daily life.
As vegetables go, cabbage and potatoes are two of the most important, featured in many — you guessed it — soups and stews. Stuffed cabbage is a classic Hungarian recipe that relies on tomatoes, rice, ground meat, and another Hungarian staple: sauerkraut. Pickled vegetables are common in Hungarian cuisine in general, since pickling was traditionally a surefire technique for preserving them during the long winters.
Hungarian people love their desserts and pastries. Kürtőskalács, also called “chimney cakes,” are pastries made from soft dough wrapped around cylinders, baked over a low flame and coated with cinnamon sugar. Hungarians also have their own beloved version of crepes, known as palacsinta, often filled with jam or sweet cottage cheese. (Similar fillings are also used for sweet dumplings and rétes, i.e. Hungarian strudel.) Poppy seed is another extremely common ingredient in Hungarian desserts.