Central Market Hall, Budapest

2 03 2011

I could have entitled this post “Központi Vásárcsarnok,” but I was afraid that might have been a little off-putting.  To quote from my phrasebook, “Hungarian, or Magyar, is distantly related to Finnish and Estonian, but is utterly unlike the languages of the other main linguistic groups of Europe.”  No kidding.  What that means in real life is that if your main language experiences have been with, say, Romance or Germanic languages, none of the words in Hungarian will look even remotely familiar.  Which made the long weekend Nick and I recently spent in Budapest something of an adventure.

Budapest's Central Market Hall

Budapest was once two towns, Buda on the hilly West bank of the Danube River, and Pest on the flat East side.  We stayed in Pest, in the Józsefváros neighborhood, which seemed to have a pretty good dining scene as well as plenty of cool bars for later on.  There was a bit of trouble with the hotel we had originally booked, but since it resulted in a free upgrade to the Hotel Palazzo Zichy, we weren’t complaining.  The first night we dined in a nearby restaurant, Alföldi Kisvendéglö, which served inexpensive, old-school Hungarian classics like paprikás csirke (chicken paprikash – chicken braised in a paprika-laced gravy) and töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage).  The food was hearty and flavorful, though less than photogenic.  We washed it down with a bottle of Hungarian red wine, which was surprisingly good, especially considering the price – about $18 US.

Tiled market roof

The next morning, I was itching to check out the Central Market Hall, conveniently located only ten minutes’ walk from our hotel.  (I swear I didn’t plan it that way, I just got lucky.)  It’s an impressive building, with elaborate patterns in the bricks and a colorful tiled roof.  Inside, the market spans three levels.

paprika stand

The ground floor consists mainly of touristy paprika stands and butchers.  The butchers had rows and rows of sausages of various girths hanging on display, and piles of foies gras that made it seem as though it’s a regular, boring, everyday food.  (Let it be noted that I did, in fact, eat foie gras every day I was in Budapest. So maybe that is the case.)  A handful of dairy stands and bakeries broke up the monotony, and there was one row almost exclusively devoted to fresh vegetables.  It was here that I bought two bags of paprika and a jar of paprika paste, after comparing prices around the market and finding them favorable.

Pickled cabbage-stuffed pickled things

The basement of the market used to be a series of canals where delivery boats could come in directly from the river, but now it houses a supermarket, some fish counters, and a lot of places selling pickled things.  Pickled cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, you name it, they pickle it.  And then stuff it into another pickled item.  I was particularly delighted by this display:

Pickled smiles

I mean, how can you not smile at a wall of happy cabbage-stuffed peppers?

Having worked up an appetite, Nick and I headed upstairs to check out the ready-to-eat food stands.  The view over the market was pretty incredible.

Market interior from above

After inspecting the wares, we decided on lángos, rounds of fried flatbread smeared with sour cream, cheese, and whatever else you want on top.  Apparently I didn’t think that was quite enough dairy for one giant savory doughnut, and asked for a topping of feta cheese.  Nick did the smart thing and got salami.

fried bread and cheese lunch.

They were so greasy, and so incredibly good.  And I didn’t even feel that guilty about eating it after stepping back out into the cold.  Then we skipped the funicular and hiked up the Castle Hill on foot, which totally earned us a slice of dobostorta from Ruszwurm Cukrászda, which is supposed to be one of the best pastry shops in Budapest.  Frankly, it was a little disappointing, but the three slabs of seared foie gras I had at dinner that night definitely made up for it.

On this day in 2010: Chez Virginie (one of the best cheese shops in Paris)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




22 responses

2 03 2011

Mmmm… langos look amazing. And I cracked up when I saw the happy cabbages! 😀

2 03 2011

Camille: Amazing coincidence that we were there over the same weekend. I totally missed the basement of the market. We walked by the langos, which friends of ours had heartily recommended, and instead had an amazingly delicious and well priced lunch at the nearby Cafe Alibi. And no we didn’t get to the Memento Park. There’s never enough time to do it all!

3 03 2011

“Sausages of various girths”. Giggle.

With that out of the way… Love these posts, as I’ve never been anywhere near this part of Europe! (I say that like I haven’t only been to Europe once…) Oh, and I completely applaud your feta choice. You’re a woman, and therefore need lots of calcium. 😉

3 03 2011

Beautiful! Budapest is definitely on my list of places to visit one day 🙂

3 03 2011

Your photos of the weekend’s sights were almost – almost – as good as being there. I’m relatively new to your blog and don’t post often. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy my quick stops here. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

3 03 2011
hungry dog

I love these weekend getaways of yours! Sounds amazing. And the wall of smiling peppers is indeed irresistible.

What will you make first with your paprika purchases?

3 03 2011

Su-Lin – Not something I could eat every day, but they were truly delicious.

Anne – I saw Café Alibi, and chuckled at the name. Glad to hear it was good.

Hannah – You’re right. Women NEED calcium. 🙂

Joyti – It’s a really interesting city. I know you’ll have fun when you go!

Mary – Thank you so much for your kind comment!

hungry dog – I’d love to try my hand at that chicken paprikash or a nice beefy goulash with dumplings.

4 03 2011

Those pickles are so adorable! I would buy them just because they make me smile 🙂

5 03 2011

Jessica – If we had been staying any longer, I would have, too!

5 03 2011

My mouth is watering reading this post — those lángos look incredible. Not to mention the peppers. I’m so glad you had such a delicious break!

6 03 2011
Andrew Petcher

You are right – it is a good market!

6 03 2011

Hungary is totally new to me so I really enjoyed your post! The market looks fantastic and a place I would love to wander through. Thanks for sharing.

7 03 2011
foodie and the chef

No I wouldn’t feel guilty about the langos either – survival food for the bitter cold ! The smiley faces are ridiculously cute.

8 03 2011
Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu

Incredible building filled with incredible food and smiling pickles. All good!

8 03 2011

Ann – My mouth waters too, every time I look at these pictures!

Andrew – Thanks, it is!

Michel – As always, it’s my pleasure. 🙂

foodie and the chef – It’s certainly understandable why so many of the dishes were fatty or fried. I wonder what the food is like there in the summer…

Fiona – Indeed!

9 03 2011
Tammy McLeod

Egga shegga drey! Actually, that’s “cheers” spelled phonetically in Hungarian. The language, as you have pointed out, is like no other. I remember lots of cheap caviar and of course, the paprika.

9 03 2011
Borssó Bistro, Budapest « Croque-Camille

[…] as soon as I’d snapped the photos of the lángos we ate for lunch on our first full day in Budapest, Nick noted that my camera was flashing a low battery warning.  D’oh!  I took […]

10 03 2011

Tammy – That’s further than I got with my Hungarian! 🙂 I just about mastered “kusunum.”

22 03 2011
Rochelle (Acquired Taste)

I wish there were more places like this in Canada and in the States.. closest you get are farmers markets usually… The stand with all those red peppers is making me all kinds of jealous 😀

24 03 2011

Rochelle – Me, too! Peppers like that are thin on the ground in France. 🙂

29 03 2011
The Mistress of Spices

Budapest has been on my list for a long weekend for quite some time now. It’s good to know that in addition to the architecture and historical sites, there’s lot of fun to be had food-wise! I’ll definitely check out this market when we finally make it there!

30 03 2011

Mistress of Spices – We had a great time and ate very well!

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