Budapest…for the Vegetarian Soul

It is not very easy being a vegetarian in Europe. In Spain, when I say that I am a vegetarian, the waiters assume that I eat tuna and ham. ‘Who does not eat tuna and ham?’, is an oft asked question in Spain. I wasn’t expecting Budapest to be a vegetarian-friendly city, especially the local cuisine. I knew that I could find pizza places that would help me survive, but I assumed that the local Hungarian food would be meat dominated and I would end up eating pizza slices all the time that are good on the pocket but bad on the stomach.

Well, possibly the Hungarian food is meat dominated, but there are vegetarian and vegan versions available for almost everything, especially in the touristy areas. I ended up eating a slice of pizza for dinner only once, and that too because I was hungry at midnight and the pizza joint close to my hostel was the easiest access to food that I had then.

Back to the Budapest for the vegetarian soul…if you are a vegetarian and make your way to Budapest, make sure that you try the following local dishes:

  1. Longos: Deep fried dough with yeast – crisp, yet easy to bite…how can you not love it! The first time Ankur and I had longos was in Vienna, and we had no clue of what it is…and we never saw it again in Western Europe. So, when I laid my eyes on it in Budapest, I wanted to have it for every meal…the health conscious bit of me did not let me do so. In Budapest, I had longos with cream cheese, rucula and grilled peppers…delightful.
  2. Goulash: This flavorsome soup is traditionally made with meat. Thanks to tourism, there are vegetarian and even vegan options available. I had a bean goulash in a vegan restaurant – warm soup that was perfect after spending four hours in the spa. The soup was perfect on spices – not to sharp, yet not bland. Most restaurants in the touristy areas offer a vegan goulash, often served in a bread bowl.
  3. Hummus, falafel and Hungarian bread: There are many gyros in Budapest, which are a result of the Ottoman influence that Hungary had centuries ago. Thus, the hummus and falafel that I had in Budapest were as good as the one that I have had in Jordan and Dubai. I preferred having the hummus and falafel with traditional Hungarian bread that had potato and lots of sesame seeds.
  4. Chimney Cake: The minute I got off the train in Budapest, I saw a kid eating something that looked very interesting …a cake, that was shaped like a tumbler. As I pottered around, I saw a little stall selling ’traditional chimney cakes’ and I just had to go and get one! Well, I had a fully loaded chimney cake, which meant – Nutella at the bottom, then a layer of ice-cream, followed by a swirl of ‘softy’! It took me 20 minutes to finish it and it gave me a sugar rush that made be bob around like a five-year-old! I could not have a meal after the loaded chimney cake…but it was so worth the calories. It is a must-have in Budapest!
  5. Potato apricot dumpling: This is a season Hungarian dessert, typically made when apricots are in season. It is a potato dumpling that is mildly sweet and has a sweet and sour center that is made of apricots. I tried this in a really fancy place in Pest and liked it. However, I would say that not everyone would have a taste of it, and for many, the idea of having potatoes in a dessert isn’t very appealing. I would still recommend trying it if you are visiting in the apricot season.

Bon apetit ….Get hungry in Hungary!

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