Traditional Hungarian Christmas Dinners

Halászlé

Every country has different traditional foods that they imagine are globally the menu for any family who celebrates Christmas. And then we are all surprised when it turns out that they are nothing alike in any any way shape or form. I would like to take this time to explain what exactly constitutes a traditional Christmas dinner in Hungary. Mind you, the different provinces have different traditions and available foods, so this is by no means exhaustive, it is what a small consensus has yielded.

Soup

There is always, on any occasion, soup if you are going for dinner to a Hungarian house. Always. It may be the only thing to eat, but there will ALWAYS be soup. it is, to most Hungarians, the only meal they regularly eat.

Usually, Halászlé, that nasty looking cloudy fish soup that has become infamous in the expat community is what is on the menu. This soup uses all of the parts of the fish, including the eggs and the intestines, but most of the fish guts and odd ends are filters away leaving only the broth with some delicious chunks of fish meat floating around in it. Although not the prettiest looking soup, it is delicious, and once you try it, you will not want any other kinds of fish.

The other traditional soup is wine soup. Just what it sounds like, this is a fruit soup base with tons and tons of red wine and cinnamon. There are several varieties, but all of them get you drunk, and all of them taste like wine when you are eating them.

Main Course

One of the main things to eat during Christmas is the emblematic stuffed cabbage. Coming from Transylvania, a place of mythical importance ot the Hungarians, this cabbage is usually stuffed with mince pork and rice, and a mouthwatering assortment of spices. This salty, heavy little bundle is then doused in a generous helping of sour cream. Usually 3 or 4 of them are plenty enough for an entire weeks worth of indigestion, and these cabbage leaves are absolutely delectable, and loved by most.

toltott kapo Traditional Hungarian Christmas Dinners

Fish is also frequently on the menu. While most people just take a whole fish, clean it and then grill it and serve it with lemon and grill seasoning, there are some interesting things that are done with fish as well. Pörkölt, a famous dish that can be made out of any animal, mineral or vegetable is basically a thick paprika sauce with the object of one’s desire in it. Catfish is regularly made into pörkölt, and is served with csusza, a type of pasta that looks like small pieces of lasagne.

Dessert

Perhaps the most iconic piece of food that exists on the Christmas menu is the desserts. These are various, but there is one that is at the center piece of the Christmas dinner: the beigli. This is a rolled piece of dough with either walnut and raisins or poppy seed in it. There is no other kind of beigli, only these two exist. Gingerbread cookies are also common.

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