There is no probably other country int he world where they use as much sweet paprika powder as Hungarians do. However, it has not always been like this. In the early Middle Ages, Hungarian cuisine was well-known for its wide variety of dishes. The royal cooks used an astonishing range of spices and herbs including ginger, thyme, sage, anise and even saffron.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Ottoman rule brought drastic changes to the country as the invaders took most of the cattle from the peasants. They left only the pigs as Muslims do not eat pork. This is one reason why this type of meat became the main ingredient in most of our traditional recipes.
The Mongol invasion, the Habsburg Monarchy and especially the Communist era had a significant cultural influence. Quantity became more important than quality and slowly the standard of the Hungarian cuisine began to deteriorate. In the 19th century, the paprika powder made from ground peppers became a key element in Hungary’s spiciest dishes such as fish soup (halászlé) and goulash (gulyás).
It was only in the 2000s that the gastronomic revolution reached Hungary and put an end to this gradual decline and helped to preserve what was left from our centuries-old traditions.
Outdoor cauldron cooking is popular in Hungary. Hungarians mostly prepare goulash: a beef stew dating back to the Middle Ages. Common folk added paprika to make stew (pörkölt), while upper classes softened the dish with sour cream and side dishes as egg noddles (nokedli).
Gingerbread has long been a sweet canvas for expressing Hungarian cultural heritage. The dough of flour and boiled honey is baked into hand-carved wooden molds and decorated with piped-on icing of egg whites and powered sugar.