Just a block or so from the Danube River, Budapest's Great Market Hall is housed in a stunning three-story neo-Gothic building that dates back to the late 19th century. The ground floor features food stalls of all sorts, selling everything from cured meats to wine and pastries. The locals do their entire grocery haul here while the tourists devour delicious Hungarian treats. Upstairs is where to find hearty dishes like goulash and chicken paprikas. There are certain things at the Great Market Hall you shouldn't miss.
Libamáj (Foie Gras)
While it's seen as an expensive delicacy throughout much of the world, libamáj (foie gras, a dish made from goose liver) is both affordable and easy to come by at Budapest's Grand Market. You can expect to pay less than half of what you would pay in the U.S. Pick up a tin of this rich, buttery pâté from any of the meat stalls and slather it on fresh kifli, a crescent-shaped bread roll that's eaten throughout Hungary.
Sausages are a big deal in Hungary. They feature in dishes served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, popping up in everything from stew to salad and pastries, too. Kolbász is the catch-all term for Hungarian sausage and there are many different varieties on offer at the market, whether served cooked, boiled, cured, or smoked. Choose between csabai kolbász, a spicy sausage flavored with paprika; Gyulai kolbász, a beechwood-smoked sausage hailing from the town of Gyula; and májas hurka, boiled liver sausage.
Pálinka (Fruit Brandy)
This traditional Hungarian fruit brandy dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was sipped for its medicinal properties. It remains one of the nation's favorite tipples and you'll see it on drinks lists at restaurants and bars throughout the country. It's typically made from locally-grown fruit—apricots, plums, cherries, and pears—but it's pretty potent (at least 37.5 percent alcohol by volume), so beware. Many of the stalls at Budapest's Grand Market Hall will let you try before you buy.
Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage)
After you've worked up an appetite hopping from stall to stall on the ground floor, head upstairs to sample some heartier dishes. Lining the balcony of one side of the hall are a number of eateries serving goulash, kolbász, and chicken paprikas. Don't leave without trying the stuffed cabbage, or töltött káposzta. The Hungarian speciality features cooked cabbage leaves loaded with ground pork and beef, rice, tomatoes, and sauerkraut. As with many Hungarian dishes, it's generously flavored with paprika. This comforting dish is eaten often during winter.
Magyar Tojasos Metelt (Hungarian Noodles)
Like pasta, Hungarian egg noodles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and you can pick up packets at the market to create your very own Magyar-inspired meals at home. Made simply from flour, eggs, and salt, the noodles are rolled, then pinched or grated. You'll discover them in popular dishes like chicken paprikas and pörkölt (meat stew). Look out for nokedli (drop dumplings similar to German spaetzle), csipetke (pinched noodles used in soups and stews), and csiga (small noodles made on special grooved wooden boards).
Piros Arany (Paprika Paste)
You'd struggle to find a household in Hungary that doesn't have a tube of piros arany (red gold) in its kitchen. This handy condiment is a paste made from quality minced paprika and it's used to flavor all sorts of traditional dishes. Add a dollop to soups and stews or use it to marinate meats and fish. You can buy sweet, smoked, or spicy versions and the tubes make great, affordable gifts for food-loving friends and family back home.
Sajtos Pogácsa (Cheese Scones)
For a carby on-the-go snack, pick up a sajtos pogácsa, a light and fluffy cheese scone made crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. These bite-sized savory scones are typically served with hearty soups and stews, but they're delicious on their own, too.