I am in no way qualified to expound this topic. But I’ve never let that stop me before. Let’s get going.
What I can tell you about Hungarian cuisine is that it’s unusually varied, made up of everything from stews like goulash to crépes, dumplings, cold fruit soups, noodle dishes, and a veritable universe of sausages, breads, cheeses and pickles. And then there are the pastries, which are among the most unique and sophisticated on the planet.
All that variety comes at a surprise to some, until they remember that Hungary was once the seat of empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire to be precise, which was the dominant power in Europe from the middle of the 19th Century up until the end of World War I.
Now, you might approve of empire or you might not, but one thing that pretty much everyone can agree on when it comes to empires is that they’re big. They are by definition multi-national, and as a result their capital cities tend to be quite cosmopolitan, drawing in as they do people and influences from a wide area. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was no different. It sprawled over all of south central Europe, and, as this very helpful map illustrates, it was comprised of not only ethnic Hungarians and Germans, but also Czechs, Poles, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Romanians, Croats, Serbs, even some Italians.
Peoples from those areas would have poured into the twin capital cities of Austria-Hungary — Budapest and Vienna — during its time, bringing with them choice bits of their cultures, and their cuisines. I daresay that in those days the eating would have been as good in those spots as any in the world, and that includes Paris (especially where bread and pastry are concerned). No wonder Hungarians get so lit up when the subject of food comes up. They have an awful lot to talk about.