Without any scientific proof, there are four types of main dishes in the Hungarian cuisine.
The first group is the gulyas and its relative the pörkölt (made of beef, pork, turkey, chicken, mushroom, liver, gizzard, potato). Fried tiny chipped onions with red pepper give a unique flavour to these dishes, may times served with minignocchis (nokedli) and with some pickled vegetable side dish.
Gulyas is probably the second most famous Hungaricum after Puskas. Second group: fried-breaded stuff. We Hungarians prepare almost anything in a fried-breaded way: meat, chicken, cheese, fish, vegetables, and pancakes. However, the world knows best the Wiener schnitzel, so the acknowledgement for this food category has gone to the Austrians.
Not a surprise!
The Austro-Hungarian Empire left us with agricultural challenges and no fame. Third group: rich soups. Some of the Hungarian soups are so rich that they are considered to be main dishes in many households. We eat various sweet pastas with them as a dessert. A bean-soup (bableves) followed by a sweet cottage cheese pasta (túrós tészta cukorral) can be a delicious lunch or dinner menu. A rich chicken or beef soup (húsleves) is the main weapon of grandmas against all illnesses. The meals described above can be found more or less in most of the restaurants. However, there is one category that is treated as a red-headed stepchild: the FŐZELÉK.
Although, a while ago this was the most commonly prepared main dish in the traditional countryside homes, somehow it is not considered to be elegant enough to be put on the menu nowadays. Yet it is very Hungarian, you can’t really find any similar stuff in other countries. Moreover it is healthy! We prepare főzelék from any kind of vegetable using a fried thickening of flour or adding sour crème to the vegetable while cooking. You can spice it up with garlic, red pepper, salt, black pepper, bay, etc, to be served with some fried meat and eggs. Can you imagine a green pea főzelék with garlic-flavoured fried ribs and eggs sunny side up with a freshly baked roll? How delicious it could be, and how nicely presented!
In a globalised world people are open to every new culinary experience. Think about how many of us adore a type of eastern food which is actually a sticky rice cube glued with hot green radish to a tiny piece of raw fish, and we have to juggle with small sticks to actually put a bite into our mouth! Sounds terrible, tastes good. However there is a limit of people’s openness. I could not finish my eel-jelly in a suburban English restaurant, for example. The rubber-like thick skin in a shaking gelatin somehow did not become my favourite food.
Főzelék is different, I think it can be reinvented, it deserves it!
Meanwhile here are some places where you can eat főzelék now:
Főzelékfaló (Nagymező utca 18, near the Oktogon), Green’s Főzelékbár (Dob utca 3, near the Synagogue), Földes Józsi Kocsmája (Frankel Leo utca 30, Buda side, near Margit bridge).
Fotos: Wavrik Gábor