I didn’t know much about Hungarian food before I arrived in Budapest – just that there was goulash and sausages to be eaten in large amounts. On the way from the airport, my friend briefed me on a few words – hello (szia, pronounced a bit like ‘see ya’), thank you (köszi), and a few other words which I forgot embarrassingly quickly.
Once we’d arrived at the markets, I learned quickly that paprika is very important in Hungarian cuisine. You can even buy it in strings as a souvenir. Sour cream and sausages are also used a lot, which was good news for me.
After a few meals I got a bit more familiar with the Hungarian words for food items, and quickly worked out which ones I liked (which was basically all of them). Here are a few:
gulyas – goulash, meat stew or soup
kolbász – spicy sausage
gombóc/Knödel – bread or potato dumpling, often boiled
szendvic – sandwich
torta – cake
palacsintak – thin pancakes, like French crepes, served sweet or savoury
Because all of these things were pretty delicious foods, and/or memorable words, I didn’t have much trouble learning them so I could ask for them again. If only all words had such motivational properties!