#Culture #Gastronomy /

Why Hungarians love cholent?

Hungarians love rich, hearty dishes, therefore the menu of any self-respecting traditional Hungarian restaurant would be empty without cholent, however you can’t find the same in each menu: the basic ingredients are beans, barley and meat are the same in every recipe, eggs, onions, grounded paprika, chickpeas, chicken and tiny dumplings aka kugli are all popular additions. According to the Torah scripture, lighting a fire and cooking food are among the activities prohibited on Shabbat. Cholent as a typical Shabbath dish, must be prepared no later than Friday afternoon. Then it has to be kept hot for the Shabbat meal, therefore in order to create a delicious meal that could be served without having to turn on the stove, this slow cooking stew would be started early on Friday before Sabbath and would be kept cooking in a slow cooker or on a hotplate overnight until the following day when it would be enjoyed as a midday meal following prayers at the synagogue. 

One of the oldest place in town serving the dish is Kádár étkezde, named after its Jewish founder, Bela Kadar, has been open for lunch since 1957. Kadar played for the MTK soccer team and encouraged his fellow athletes to come and try “his” food. Soon, celebrities of all stripes were showing up and you can still find dozens of their photos on the walls today. Their cholent is thick, however not kosher, as it is served with goose leg or smoked pork knuckle on top.

Macesz Bisztró is a high-end restaurant named after the Hungarian word for matzo, their menu combines a Hungarian-Jewish fusion, where a crispy roast duck leg is served on top of the cubes of smoked meat, bean, and barley mixture, the dish itself is not so dry and just enough wet. The recipe for the Budapester cholent has a distinctly Hungarian twist by the smoked meat cooked together with the beans and barley, adding a deep richness to the flavor base.

Fülemüle restaurant’s kitchen offers no fewer than five variations of the dish, including “Mexican style.” The  base recipe was passed down to the Singer family by their grandmother before she died in 1996. The recipe is partly written, partly done by instinct with a smoked first-cut brisket sitting up on top of the plate.

If you want to discover the real Jewish community life and the traditional dish, visit the popular Cholent Jewish gastro festival at the last weekend of the summer, organized for the fourth time. You will not only have the opportunity to choose from four different kinds of cholents, but you can also taste other traditional Jewish foods and drinks from all over the world which are under the strict supervision of the Rabbinat. Furthermore, you can get an insight into the mysteries of kosher cuisine and Jewish life at the festival organized by the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH). Last year more than 8000 (!) portion of cholent, salads and desserts were sold!  Beside gastronomic experiences, Jewish tunes can be enjoyed thanks to the Klezmer bands playing music during the whole day. If you have any questions about Jewish life, you can visit the Ask the Rabbi booth, where you can ask nearly anything. The event is free, no tickets required!

When? August 26, Sunday 11 am – 9 pm

Where? 1075 Budapest, Kazinczy Street – between Király and Wesselényi Streets

Photo: Adobe Stock Images

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