The best thing at the week - Hungarian Sunday lunch
If you are in Hungary and not just like a tourist but also with someone who is coming from here maybe you would have a chance to go for a typical Hungarian Sunday lunch. This meal is practically a sacred ritual in Hungary and I believe every family is taking pretty serious. Ever since I can remember we always had Sunday lunch together with my family. Since we were growing up and moved out from home my mum always finds a chance to invite us for the most delicious meal of the week or maybe the month. Every Hungarian mom and grandma is very proud of their cooking knowledge what they give further to the next generation. Let’s see a few things what you should know about the “séance”.
A polite greeting
It's polite to say "kezét csókolom" when greeting an older woman. This literally means "I kiss your hand" but you don't actually need to kiss anyone on the hand. It's also polite to take flowers to the female host and a bottle of wine to the male host.
Don't refuse the pálinka
The most important thing to remember is that if you are ever offered a shot of pálinka you must drink it. Even if it's your third shot, or if it's homemade and not very good, you still must drink it. This is the case for the host's homemade wine too. Happily, home-made pálinka can actually be great. Egészségedre!
Never "cheers" with beer
In Hungary people don't clink beer glasses. Legend has it, that when Hungary's 1848 revolution against the Habsburgs was defeated, the Austrians celebrated in Vienna by toasting and clinking their beer glasses. Hungarians vowed not to cheers with beer for 150 years. While that time frame is over - Hungarians still don't "cheers" with beer.
Nevertheless with any other alcoholic beverage like wine or pálinka it's considered rude not to look the other person in the eye when saying cheers ("egészségedre"). People will literally have their eyes wide open and protruding as they clink glasses to make sure you know that they're looking at you, and that they know that you're looking at them.
The food to expect:
For most Hungarians lunch is the most important meal of the day, so you're more than likely to be invited for this meal. But no matter whether it's lunch or dinner expect some kind of savoury baked treat like a pogácsa or sós stangli to begin with. These are salt, cheese or bacon flavoured pastries. If you're lucky these won't be dried out but soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside and simply delicious. Still don't go overboard because there's so much more food to come. Firstly there's soup - generally a chicken or meat broth, but in summer it could be a fruit soup. This is followed by a main which probably includes a combination of meat, potatoes. There are a lots of option what you will get for main: the most common one is Wiener schnitzel called Bécsi szelet, more commonly Rántott hús (my father always wanted to eat just this on Sunday),
Szűz tekercsek (literally "Virgin roulade" filled with minced meat), Pörkölt (meat stew) - similar to ragù, Rántott sajt, (flat cheese croquette, cheese rolled in breadcrumbs and, deep fried), etc. There is likely to be pickles or a cucumber salad on the side. Remember there'll be paprika on everything - even the cucumber salad (!!), and there'll be hot paprika you can add yourself.
If that's not enough dessert is often a cake or a slice - possibly even more than one kind. And if you stay long enough a plate of pogácsa or sós stangli will mysteriously reappear on the table
Just when you thought you'd eaten enough:
Don't be surprised when, after you've stuffed yourself with 6 huge portions, that the grandma still thinks you're skinny and that you haven't eaten enough. You're likely to be offered cakes or even a few large portions of meat and potato to take home in a nylon tub. It's not worth fighting this - no matter what you say, you'll always end up taking home the tub.
A traditional meal with a Hungarian family could be one of the greatest experiences you have while in Hungary. The hospitality and warm welcome of Hungarian families is truly special, plus the food is delicious!