Ethnic Food Markets in Budapest
There’s no shortage of paprika in Budapest, but every once in a while it’s nice to be able to cook up a little something different…or as the case may be for a lot of expats, something familiar. Culinaris is wonderful if you’re looking for a wide range of Western-style ingredients, but you’ll be more challenged for choice if your taste runs further East. With some extra effort, though, you’ll be able to find most of what you need.
Hungary has long been on friendly terms with many Asian and African countries, and has hosted thousands of foreign university students during the socialist times, but it was only after the fall of the Berlin wall that its culinary doors began to re-open. It started with, in regional terms, the proportionally high inflow of Chinese migrants, who brought their own gastronomic culture and opened their own food-shops. Initially these establishments were only visited by fellow Chinese buyers, but are now also frequented by both expats and native Hungarians. Then the mid-90’s saw a flourishing of Asian spice-shops, run mainly by either ex-university students or Turkish tradesmen. These stores have primarily served the resident Middle Eastern community. In the last few years, new niche markets have started to appear, such as those catering to a craving for Indian food.
So if you’d like to source ingredients for your home-cooked curry dish, or think some sesame paste would be just the thing, you don’t have to go far. Below are a few recommendations to get you started.
The biggest and cheapest of all Asian food shops lies on Rákóczi tér (District VIII), in the left wing of the Market Hall. It stocks all the basic Asian ingredients, as well as the kitchen tools for proper cooking. The counter staff don’t typically speak Hungarian or English, but are quite nice once you’ve sharpened up your metacommunication skills.
Apart from the impressive range of rice, sauces, pickles, dried mushrooms and noodles, they offer three kinds of fresh tofu, bamboo shoots, and home made noodles and vegetables; all produced in Budapest. They also have a long row of refrigerators filled with crabs, mussels, and an ample number of mystery items. Highly recommended.
Open from 10 to 6 weekdays and sometimes on Saturday.
There is also Korean and Japanese grocery shop at 84 Kapy utca – unofficially called Mr. Pak’s shop. Has a decent range of Korean and Japanese products, including home made tofu and kimchee.
A trip to the Syrian-Lebanese shop in the XIth district is worth the effort (Karinthy Frigyes út 27, www.adelkft.uw.hu). As mentioned earlier, numerous Middle Eastern food shops have opened up in Budapest, but this is special. The shop offers authentic ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere. Halal food (meeting Muslim requirements) is available here, with the slaughtering of white meat and sheep taking place locally, making it the best source of buying fresh lamb in the city.
Other than the meat, most of the food is imported from Syria and Lebanon. Olive oil, spices, coffee, humus, beans, couscous, pickled vegetables, cheese, yogurt etc. can be had at very good prices and high quality. Many Hungarian customers are attracted to the the large selection of sheesha pipes and tobacco. Open from 11am or 12am, closing at 11pm.
Last and least, a smaller Indian food shop was opened in the basement of an Asian gift shop in the VIIth district, on Wesselényi utca 36, http://www.exoticindia.hu/. The Indian community is still relatively small in Hungary, and as a result the selection of Indian foods is rather limited. Nevertheless, there’s good food on offer: all kinds of flours, masala, spices etc., and at a much better price than elsewhere. Cooking classes are also available, and you can pick up a Bollywood favorite while you’re there.
All Mixed Up
I’ve avoided recommending stores that offer a mixed range of culinary choice because they tend to be more expensive and are often missing that one specialty ingredient that can make the dish. For comparison’s sake, however, here are some places that sell varied ethnic ingredients, all in a one-stop shop:
- Asian shop in Big Market Hall at Vámház körút, http://azsiabt.kernel.hu/index.php (in Hungarian). Nice mixed choice of Chinese, Indian, Middle-Eastern food, but very expensive.
- Turkish- Middle Eastern food chain, http://www.oyiadelikat.com/elerhetosegeink.php (in Hungarian). Many shops in various locations, slightly expensive, very limited range.
Have a recommendation that you don’t see here? Let us know about it.