The Central Market, Budapest
October 20, 2010
The morning of September 28, 2010, Linda and I walked down the full length of Váci Utca, which was Budapest’s largest and most fashionable shopping street from 1810 to 1850 and even later. The elegant shops have long since moved to the Andrássy ut, but looking above and alongside the current shops one sees terrific architecture from Budapest’s prosperous years.
At the end of the street above you can just see the brown form of the Great Market Hall, built around Hungary’s Millennium Year, 1896.
This is a very active market with customers at most of the stands and lines at some. It is on three floors with fish, pickles and a small supermarket downstairs. Upstairs are a café, a small restaurant, prepared food stands and many stands with souvenirs etc.
We will start with photos on the well-stocked, busy main floor.
Round cross-slices of these peppers are used to garnish pörkölt and gulyás. They add some crunch and are an enhancement to the aromatic red pepper flavor of the paprika. The yellow ones are mild, but one must be careful with the light green ones which can be can be quite hot.
The butcher stands, which all sell a wide variety of sausages, are intermingled with the vegetable, bakery and other stands on the main floor.
Fattened goose liver is a classic Hungarian dish. It is usually fried in thick slabs. Some say that the original discovery of foie gras was by Hungarian Jews who overfed geese in order to get the fat for cooking as they could not use lard, which was the base of Christian Hungarian cuisine. On the right are dressed geese.
The variety of fresh breads is huge. Caraway and poppy seeds are frequently used.
The variety of paprikas offered is confusing to a foreigner who wants to buy some to try at home.
There are many types of dried noodles offered.
Nuts and dried fruit.
There were fewer pastries than I would have guessed.
Now we are downstairs. As Hungary has no seacoast, most of the fish are fresh water varieties. On the left are some big fish heads, presumably for fish soups.
Live carp are swimming in very crowded conditions.
I don’t know why the pickle sellers are still relegated to the basement along with the fishmongers. In the old days pickling was the main way to preserve vegetables over the long Hungarian winter. Strong vinegar was used, which may have had a strong aroma which needed to be isolated.
Now we are upstairs and have a view over the main hall. The stands are along the wide balconies along all four sides and on the crosswalk in the middle. There is a little café at the top of the escalator, followed by many stands selling prepared hot and cold foods for takeaway or eating on the spot.
The soupy one is the real Hungarian gulyás.
Now we are in a little ante-room by the back entrance to the market where temporary stands can be set up. It is late September and the mushroom gathering season has begun. There is an offical inspection booth to control that poisonous mushrooms are not sold.
This was the only stand we saw that specialized in dairy products. I think that dairy cattle are a small part of the Hungarian farming mix.
Flódni is a traditional Jewish dessert consisting of layers of ground walnut paste, poppy seeds and apples spread between thin layers of pastry. We bought a piece and didn’t think it tasted as good as it looks.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Central Market. It was good to see it so busy and well stocked with quality goods. We had read in some guidebooks that it is mostly for tourists, which may have been the case when fresh food was scarce, but that is not true now, except for the souvenir section upstairs. Even there, most of the tourists were provincial Hungarians visiting their big city.
We went back to the Central Market three days later to see it again and to buy paprika before going on to the airport.