Friday, April 04, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

  • breakfast: túrós burek
  • snack: fruit and poppy seed candy; apple-cinnamon mulled white wine; orange mulled red wine
  • lunch: chicken soup with noodles and carrots (csontleves)
  • dinner: peas and paneer; basmati rice; naan; a mango lassi; tea

As we studied the pastry case at Burek Pékség, a man walked in and ordered what turned out to be a burek. It was made up of layers of dough. In the burek's moist interior they tasted like pasta, but on its outside they were crisp and brown. They came in six flavors: túró (a fresh curd cheese), meat, ham and cheese, cabbage, sour cherry, and apple. We got túró, which unusually was savoury rather than sweet. It was an unusual pastry for Hungary. Not so atypical was the portion size: even though Giovanna and I shared it, it was about twice as much as I wanted.

We guessed that the burek was Serbian since we had never heard of it before and its name doesn't sound Hungarian (it breaks vowel harmony rules, for you linguists out there). Wikipedia informed me that the burek can be found in different forms everywhere that was once part of the Ottoman empire. It was good, rich, but at least for me a bit overwhelming at breakfast. We also bought a loaf of challah for future eating, since it seemed to be a specialty of the place. (Challah is ubiquitous in Hungary, and nobody associates it with Judaism.)

In town we found a spring fair with lots of booths. I made a bee line to the honey stand. The honey there was more expensive than my beloved Gyöngyösi honey, but it came in many intriguing varieties (honey from wild garlic flowers, anyone?). I got a little jar of chestnut honey. It's less sweet than most honey; in fact, you can even taste a bit of sourness in it, and the aftertaste is slightly bitter. At the same booth, I bought a bottle of squash seed oil. It's a traditional Hungarian salad topping that we had only ever had eating lunch with the Kiss family (their name sounds like quiche, not like a smooch). At another booth we got a candy made of fruit condensed till it weighed twice as much as you thought possible and covered with poppy seeds. It had a pleasantly sticky and chewy consistency and tasted really fruity even though I couldn't distinguish any one fruit. It was nice, though probably not worth the shocking 600 forints we paid for it. At the mulled wine booth prices reverted to the Hungarian norm, and 120 forints bought a glass of white wine mulled with apples and cinnamon that was the best mulled wine I've ever had. The mulled red wine was fine but nothing special.

Szeged is famous for its sausage and paprika, which come together at the Pick sausage factory's sausage and paprika museum. We ate lunch at the museum's restaurant. After some soup, which like all Hungarian soup was good, we tried to get a plate of Pick salami with toast. The waiter returned from the kitchen with the news that there was no toast. We reacted to this improbable news by telling him that plain bread would be fine. He looked sheepish and told us that actually they were out of salami. Luckily upon entrance to the museum, we were told that our tickets entitled us to a free plate of winter salami, Pick's most famous. The exhibit was much more informative than factory exhibits usually are. I learned that Márk Pick, the founder, was a Jew; that Hungarian meat consumption has doubled since the fall of Communism; and that winter salami is called that because before refrigeration, it could only be made then.

For dinner we went to a restaurant called Taj Mahal. The Indian food was as typical as the restaurant's name suggests (but still good!), and it was a wonderful break from Hungarian food.

Burek Pékség
Petőfi Sándor sgt. 27

Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum
Felső Tisza-part 10

Taj Mahal
Gutenberg u. 12

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