As the holiday season draws near, there’s nothing we love more than embracing Hungarian traditions and the heart-warming dishes passed on through the generations. From dishes like Hungarian fish soup, Budapest Zserbó, and so many timeless holiday treats, there’s so much delicious food to love!
Here at Eminence Organics, we take pride in our Hungarian roots. You’ll find many of the same food ingredients from traditional dishes (like paprika) in our favorite skin care serums and moisturizers. Keep reading to learn more about Hungarian holiday dishes and traditions, plus an easy recipe on how to create Hungarian fish soup in the comfort of your own home.
Traditional Hungarian Holiday Dishes
Delicious foods and traditional dishes are some of the most beloved aspects of any holiday season. In Hungary, there’s no shortage of savory and sweet recipes that children and adults alike look forward to every year. While the ingredients in each of these traditional dishes are easy to find in most grocery stores, there’s something that makes them even more special: the generations of adding a bit of this or that to make dishes unique and comforting to any particular family.
Whether it’s nourishing skin or filling hearts and bellies with beloved dishes passed from generation to generation and family to family, Hungarian recipes and farming traditions are how we embrace our roots. Ready to dive into all the scrumptious offerings you might find on a Hungarian table during the holidays?
A familiar dish to many, stuffed cabbage is as mouth-watering as it is filling. Perfect as a snack to tide one over between meals (or to eat whenever the mood strikes!), cabbage rolls are usually filled with minced pork and rice. Hungarian cabbage rolls are a bit different in that they feature additional ingredients of smoked sausage, paprika and herbs, sauerkraut, and a dollop of sour cream to give the dish even more depth of flavor.
Hungarian Fish Soup
This holiday season, add something new to the table! For seafood lovers, Hungarian fish soup is just the dish. This holiday favorite is delicious and traditional for Hungarians. Depending where you eat it, this soup might feature a slight variation or two – particularly Szegedi or Bajai fish soup!
What’s the difference between them? It starts with the rivers that flow through the country, the Tisza and Danube. The town of Bajai is located on the Danube, while Szeged is found near the Tisza region. Each region gives this dish its own geographical and flavorful distinction.
A notable difference between the two is the addition of noodles found in Hungarian fish soup originating from Bajai. Take a peek below to learn how to make this traditional holiday soup!
The holidays aren’t complete without indulging in seasonal treats! In Hungary, there’s one popular dessert that most are sure to enjoy: Zserbó. Layers of homemade cake are filled with apricot jam and walnuts, then covered with an exquisite chocolate layer. Created by French confectioner Emil Gerbeaud, Zserbó is also known as Gerbeaud’s Cake. For those who visit the region, a stop at his famous café in Budapest is a must to experience the local culture.
From start to finish, there’s no end to the wonderful flavors and ingredients used throughout Hungarian dishes – especially during the holiday season! If you want to add a bit of culinary adventure to your holiday table this year, consider adding any one of these traditional holiday dishes to your menu.
Holiday Traditions in Hungary
Just as special flavors and ingredients add a unique and festive touch that connects people to its cultural roots, there are just as many Hungarian traditions that give the season a special meaning. Here are some fun and traditional activities you’ll find in Hungary during Christmas time, in particular:
A new season is welcomed on Luca (derived from the word ‘light’ in Latin) Day, taking place on Hungary’s Winter Solstice – December 13th.
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, which means nighttime is longer than usual. Rooted in superstitions of spirits and witches on this long, dark night, various Hungarian traditions were created to keep these unwanted visitors away.
Each day from the Winter Solstice until Christmas Eve, a single carving is done on the “Luca chair,” which features wood from nine different sources. Then, on Christmas Eve, the chair is taken to a midnight mass so the carver can spot any witches or spirits in the crowd.
While tree decorating is already done in most homes around the world by Christmas Eve, there are some unique traditions surrounding the way Hungarians go about decorating and revealing the Christmas tree!
Trees are typically decorated only the night before Christmas. Children are occupied (often going on walks with grandparents) while the adults in the family decorate. Once the children return, the Christmas tree is revealed to them. It’s said to have been delivered by angels.
Traditionally, a big family meal is served on Christmas Eve after the tree has been decorated and revealed. Hungarian holiday dinners usually contain the same traditional components: cabbage rolls, fish soup, and of course, desserts like poppy seed strudel or poppy seed bread pudding.
Hungarian Fish Soup Recipe
A hearty and rich soup is perfect for any time of year, but Hungarian Fish Soup is a favorite – especially during the cold holiday season of Christmas.
This dish features warm and smoky spices from paprika, as well as fresh fish and vegetables:
- 2 carp or perch fish
- 3 liters water
- 3 onions
- 2 tomatoes
- Pinch of paprika (add more to liking)
- Pointed hot peppers
- Dried Hungarian hot peppers
- 4 red peppers
- 1 teaspoon smoked pepper
Chop fish into desired size and place in a pot with 3 liters of water. Add all vegetables into the pot, along with smoked salt and pepper (you can add more later if needed). Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes.
Once the fish has cooked through and released liquids, add smoked pepper and red pepper to the broth. Next, strain the contents of the pot through a filter to create a broth, then return the fish pieces to the pot and allow to simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Taste the broth and add additional salt or pepper, if desired.
To serve, divide the soup between bowls and top with sour cream and serve with a slice of bread. What does your Holiday dinner look like this year? Do you have any cultural traditions that are unique? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!