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In the not-too-distant past, specialty food items were extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find in Budapest. But as the city has grown in sophistication and more and more ethnic restaurants have sprung up, so, too, has the availability of sophisticated culinary delights expanded to satisfy more and more of the budding Jamie Olivers in the city.
Now one can find such wonderful things as Russian caviar, Middle Eastern halvah, English tea, Indian curry fixings and Turkish desserts. Plus, of course, pretty much all of Hungarian gastronomy is laid out for the discerning shopper.
But you do have to know where to look for the things you want. Below is a short list of the best places to find those ethnic specialty items every would-be chef needs.
If you want Russian foods, Arbat is the first of two options. Here you will find a wealth of prepared foods, like meat salad or smoked fish. Then you can fill your shopping basket with goodies like imported vodka, various jams, kvass (best served cold) and caviar of all colors. Arbat also stocks ten different flavors of Russian túró rudi (curd cheese in chocolate).
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Just a short walk from Szent István Park is The British Store. Here you will find everything you need to prepare traditional English cuisine, ingredients like black tea, Cadbury’s chocolate and orange marmalade. Fixings for a traditional English breakfast are also on tap, along with a wide selection of English beers, ciders, oat flakes, peanut butter and Marmite. Never mind the traditional fish and chips, you’ll also find many other dishes so beloved by the English.
The ’other’ Russian store is Cmak, where you can find items that Arbat may not have. Wonders from the steppes include marinated goods, the legendary Russian black bread and many staples of Russian cuisine, like cabbage, caviars and sauces. The spice shelves also offer unsuspected wonders. In addition to the Russian foodstuffs, ingredients for cooking Ukrainian and Georgian specialities at home are also available.
This specialty store carries nearly 1,000 products from Italy. You can find oils, jams, rice, coffee, risotto, cheeses, pasta, flour, vegetables and even Sicilian goodies. Stock includes pesto and dried tomatoes, but they also have ingredients for penne arrabbiata.
One of the very first delicatessens in Budapest, Culinaris’s popularity has never waned. All three of the stores in this local chain carry hard-to-find items such as specialty kitchen utensils, olive oils, spices, cheeses, hams, and wines. You can find their stores in District III, Hunyadi Square and on Balassi Bálint Street near Parliament.
A newcomer to Budapest’s specialty food shops, ÉS Deli can be found on the ground floor of Budapest’s five-star Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. Access to the shop is from Deák Ferenc Street, also known as Fashion Street, or from Erzsébet Square. Available are such treats as freshly-made gourmet sandwiches, crispy pastries and fresh-squeezed vegetable or fruit juices. They also have specialty coffee blends to please even the most discerning palate.
Home chefs and customers alike all know that kosher food is strictly regulated, from the butchering of animals to the actual cooking. Two of the most important rules are: don’t mix meat and milk-based dishes and avoid non-kosher meats like pork, shrimp and snails. Kosher Market mainly sells pre-cooked goods, but it also carries the popular Israeli spice, zatar. Other items include kosher wines and pálinkas, dairy products without artificial additives, and ingredients for Sabbath dishes, like matzo balls and cholent.
This wonderful specialty food store, located near Matthias Church in the Castle District, is both a deli and a restaurant, so you can taste many of the items before you buy them. Selections range from homemade pastries to cold cuts, horse meat, sausages, and hams. There is also fresh goat cheese with seasoned oil, eggplant spread on baguette and cold goose liver with red-onion jam. Included is a nice selection of olives, a gazpacho plate with Serrano ham and a gourmet cheese selection.
If you’re looking for a wealth of Indian spices and other accessories, Szép Kis India is the place to find them. This Indian specialty store has a good selection of deep-frozen seafood and, to suit those jaded tastes of many expats, is the best source for plantains in the city. You can also find incense sticks, statuettes, carpets, and pots.
Turkish gastronomy goes far beyond the ubiquitous kebab places around town. Türk Bakkali offers a wide variety of specialty Turkish items, including canned goods, jams, pickles, spices, pastas, sweets, honeys and oils. In addition, you can find teapots, beauty products, coffee, and pre-cooked pasta. Their butcher shop also sells fresh products and there is even home delivery.
Of the numerous delis specializing in Chinese cuisine in Budapest, one of the best is Yong Fa at Rákóczi Square. They sell such things as ten-kilo bags of rice, cooking wine, dry pasta, soy sauces, noodles, teas, spices, and kitchen accessories. They even carry beef jerky, not really an Asian food, but still is highly sought-after.
This special store has been around for at least 10 years. 8&8 Deli stocks around 300 kinds of beers and sodas rarely available in Hungary, like mango Fanta, diet Cherry Coke and Dr. Pepper. They also offer Japanese Genmaicha, organic cola, and original Hungarian soda water. The hundreds of wine varieties are mainly Hungarian, but there are highly-prized wines from Transylvania, Vojvodina, and Ménes-Hegyalja. Extras include chips and chocolate varieties, Russian vodka specialities, cheeses and pastries.