Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It's market time! Dazed and amazed at Budapest Central Market Hall

images courtesy of Steve Wilson

It's not difficult to understand why Budapest has become a serious food destination for a hungry crowd, and a Hungry Man. The explosion of nouvelle cuisine along with the honing of traditional dishes over the last decade has seen an increasing number of Michelin quality restaurants and the growth and exposure to new cultures thanks to immigration, has greatly changed the culinary landscape of this city.

I've been here for about two weeks now, and already managed to make my way to a few big dining destinations in the city, but restaurants are just one way to get a taste of Hungarian cuisine. The other way? The food markets.

The pictures in this post were taken inside what is called The Great Market or Central Market Hall - both describe the same marketplace in the centre of the city. It truly is a site to behold and the pictures do not give it justice. I'm serious. It is absolutely massive. I knew the minute I saw the front gates to the building that I would be completely bowled over by the eye popping range of foods on display. I walked in and yup, had an "oh my God where do I start?" moment pretty much immediately. I found myself standing there, slack jawed, in the middle of the main aisles thinking "what do I do"? "Where do I start?" just completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of food and other yummy treats just waiting to be tasted, cooked or bought. Throw in the fact that I speak Hungarian about as well as I play poker (I suck at it dear readers) I had to gear up for what would be a pleasant but baffling experience for this Hungry Man.

One of things I'm really starting to grasp in regards to Hungarian price awareness and cost, is that vegetables, fruit and meats are relatively cheap here in the city - it's one of the fews thing that is. It also fresh and purely organic, just a reflection of the way of life here and not a specialty aisle item as I would find back home in Canada. The eggs are not refrigerated and neither is the milk. The butter is a fresh and as tasty as you can imagine, but the salt content is very low and its tough to find salted butter. The meat seriously looks like it was freshly killed and then put on display. I have been vacillating whether to post the pic of the freshly killed chicken I bought. I mean this bird still had its innards, head and feet attached! But I came to the conclusion that although my culinary friends could probably appreciate it, my regular readers may not take kindly to that particular kind of reveal. I'll just leave it to your imagination.

All of the vegetables, fruit, meats and baked goods that are on display, just in sheer abundance throughout the market, is a glorious sight to see. What's also glorious is knowing that you can fill your basket with all of that goodness and come out spending less than 40 dollars! That truly makes Central Hall a 'must' visit. I'm lucky that I live close to the place so the shopping trip is easy, but once again it's the navigation of the language that is really something I need to work on for 2019. Thankfully the language of food is universal so you manage to communicate somehow.

I also took the elevator to the top floor of the market, just to check out the view and people watch. For about half an hour I sat there, took in my surroundings and just appreciated how massive the market place truly is. I'll also add that the market upstairs features mostly restaurants. I'm not sure if people actually eat there as it was early when I first visited and subsequent visits I never ventured upstairs again - Ill have to do a check next time I visit in the afternoon. There is also a grocery store in the basement and various places to buy Hungarian trinkets which I've been told not to do as it's not a real representation of what Hungarian culture is about. Always learning.

Next up - Viva Vienna - a weekend trip to Austria!

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