Hungarians are especially passionate about their soups, desserts / pastries and stuffed pancakes (palacsinta), with fierce rivalries between regional variations of the same dish, (like the Hungarian hot fish soup called Fisherman's Soup or halászlé, cooked differently on the banks of Hungary's two main rivers: the Danube and the Tisza). Other famous Hungarian dishes would be Paprikash (stew) with nokedli (small dumplings), Goulash, Gundel Pancake and Dobos Cake. Two remarkable elements of Hungarian cuisine that are hardly noticed by locals, but usually conjure up much enthusiasm amongst foreigners, are different forms of vegetable stews called főzelék as well as cold fruit soups, like cold sour cherry soup (hideg meggyleves). Meat stews, casseroles, steaks, roasted pork, beef, poultry, lamm or game and the Hungarian sausages (kolbász) and winter salami are a major part of Hungarian cuisine. The mixing of different varieties of meat is a traditionall feature of the Hungarian cuisine. Goulash, stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbages or pecsenye (Hungarian mixed grill on wooden platter) can combine both beef and pork, sometimes even mutton. In very exclusive dishes fruits like plums and apricots are cooked with meat or in piquant sauces/stuffings for game, roasts and other cuts. Various kinds of noodles and dumplings, potatoes and rice are commonly served as a side dish. The Hungarian cuisine uses a large variety of cheeses, but the most common are túró (a fresh curd cheese), cream cheeses, ewe-chese (juhturó), Emmentaler, Edam and the Hungarian cheese Trappista.
Hungarian food is often spicy, as hot paprika is commonly used; on account of the use of this spice (hot paprika), Hungarian cuisine is arguably the spiciest cuisine native to Europe. Besides hot paprika, sweet (mild) paprika is also used daily. The combination of paprika, lard and red onions is typical for the Hungarian cuisine, and the use of the thick sour cream called tejföl. Other common flavor components are onions (raw, sweated or caramelized), garlic, black peppercorn, parsley, ground black and white pepper, bay leaf, dill, caraway (seeds or grounded), marjoram, thyme, mustard (prepared), tarragon, vinegar, savory, lovage, creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), chervil, lemon juice and peel (zest), almond, vanilla, poppy seeds and cinnamon. Additional flavor components are wine, coriander, rosemary, juniper berries, anise, basil, oregano, allspice, horseradish, cloves, sesame seeds, mace and nutmeg.
The Hungarian cuisine is influenced both by the history of the Magyar people and by the environment found in the Carpathian basin, populated mainly by Slavs and Avars when the Magyars came from western Asia and settled in the late 800s. The importance of livestock is apparent in the prominence of meat in Hungarian food. The nomadic lifestyle of the Magyars may be reflected in traditional dishes cooked over the fire like meat dish Goulash (or gulyás in Hungarian), as the old name gyulyas hus literally means "herdsman's meat". Goulash, the pörkölt stew and the spicy Fishermans soup called halászlé are traditionally cooked over the open fire in a bogrács (or cauldron). Later (Cumanians) and Jasz settled in Hungary, adding to the local culture. In the 15th century, King Matthias Corvinus and his Neopolitan wife Beatrice were influenced by Renaissance culture, introduced new ingredients and spices like garlic, onion and the use of fruits in stuffings or cooked with meat. At that time and later, considerable numbers of Saxons (a German ethnic group), Armenians, Italians, Jews and Serbs settled in the Hungarian basin and in Transylvania. Elements of the ancient Turkish cuisine were adopted during the Ottoman era, in the form of sweets (for example Nougat called törökméz, quince (birsalma) sweets, Turkish Delight), Turkish coffee, the cake called bejgli or rice dishes like pilaf (in Transylvania), meat and vegetable dishes like the eggplant, used in eggplant salads and appetizers, stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage called töltött káposzta. The Hungarian cuisine was influenced by the Austrian cuisine under the period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed from the Austrian cuisine and vice versa. Cakes and sweets in Hungary show a strong German/Austrian influence. All total, modern Hungarian cuisine is a synthesis of Ancient Asiatic components mixed with Germanic, Italian, and Slavic elements. The food of Hungary can be considered a melting pot of the continent.
In Hungary people usually have a large breakfast. Hungarian breakfast generally is an open sandwich with fresh bread or a toast, butter, cheese or different cream cheeses, túró cheese or or körözött (Liptauer cheese spread), cold cuts such as ham, véres hurka (similar to Black pudding), liver paté (called májkrém or kenőmájas), bacon, salami, beef tongue, mortadella, disznósajt (head cheese), sausages like kabanos, beerwurst or different Hungarian sausages (kolbász). Even eggs, (fried, scrambled or boiled), French toast called bundáskenyér and vegetables (like peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, radish, scallion and cucumber) are part of the Hungarian breakfast. Sometimes breakfast is a cup of milk, tea or coffee with pastries like a bun, a kifli or a strudel with jam or honey, cereal like muesli and perhaps fruit. Children can have rice pudding (tejberizs) or Cream of Wheat (tejbegriz) for breakfast topped with cocoa powder and sugar. Hot drinks are preferred for breakfast.
Villásreggeli (litterally breakfast with fork) is a more luxurious big breakfast given on special occasions or holidays. Often guests are invited. Deviled eggs, cold steak, cold salads, salmon-omelette, pancakes, körözött, caviar, foie gras, fruit salads, compote, fruit yoghurts, fruit juices, champagne and pastries, cakes and cookies may be served.
Lunch is the major meal of the day, usually with several courses. Cold or hot appetizers may be served sometimes (for example fish, egg or liver), then soup. Soup is followed by a main dish. A main dish can be a sweet pastry dish or dish including meat and salad, which precedes the dessert. Fruit may follow. In Hungary pankakes are served as a main dish, not for breakfast. Salad is always served with meat dishes, made of lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions or a simple thin sliced cucumber salad in vinaigrette. Salads like Salade Olivier or potato sallad are made of boiled potatoes, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, fried or boiled meat or fish, ih vinaigrette, aspic, or mayonnaise. These salads are eaten as appetizers or even as a main course.
Some people and chidren eat a light meal in the afternoon, called uzsonna, usually an open sandwich. Dinner is a far less significant meal than lunch. It may be similar to breakfast, usually an open sandwich, yoghurt or virsli (hot dog sausage) with a bun, more seldom a cake, pankakes (palacsinta), and it consists of only one course.
Hungarian wines dates back to at least Roman times, and that history reflects the country's position between the Slavs and the Germanic peoples. The best-known wines are the white dessert wine called Tokaj (North-Eastern region of Hungary) (Tokaji) and the red vines from Villány (Southern part of Hungary). Famous is also the vine called Bull's Blood (Egri Bikavér), a dark, full-bodied red wine.