Hungry in Hungary!

    It is my eighth week in Berlin now. Last weekend, I went to the capital of Hungary, Budapest. It was an amazing vacation and of course I had so much delicious food! Before I start talking about food, I would like to share a lesson with you. In Hungary, its own currency, Hungarian Forint is being used instead of Euro. My friend was very anxious about not having any Hungarian Forint on hand; he was desperate searching for money exchange from the moment we landed in Budapest Airport. The first money exchange we came across was in the airport; the exchange rate was terrible at 1 Euro to 255 Hungarian Forint so I warned my friend not to exchange money there. Then, we passed by second money exchange when we hopped off our bus at city center. The exchange rate was still 1 Euro to 255 Hungarian Forint. He got more and more desperate to exchange money because we were in downtown, and we would have to start spending money; however, I told him to be a little more patient because it was still not a reasonable deal yet. He did not listen to me and exchanged. Immediately after he exchanged, we turned around the corner and saw third money exchange; the exchange rate was 1 Euro to 320 Hungarian Forint. Now, I finally exchanged my money. In this case, I lost 1 Euro for every 100 Euro I exchanged, but he lost 21 Euro for every 100 Euro he exchanged. The lesson here is to know the latest closing exchange rate and be patient at finding a better money exchange. I did my research and knew that the closing rate the day before was 1 Euro to 323 Hungarian Forint; therefore, I calculated that an acceptable exchange rate would be at least 1 Euro to 310 Hungarian Forint. It can be hard to find the best exchange rate, but we shall always set an acceptable rate and amount that we are willing to lose when exchanging money.

    Let’s talk about food now! After exchanging money, we were on our way to check in hostel. I could not resist myself when we walked past a grocery store. I went into the grocery store and checked out the first Hungarian food on my checklist, Túró Rudi. (You did not read wrongly; this Hungarian specialty is sold in most grocery stores.) Túró Rudi is a chocolate bar with thin-chocolate layer outer coating and curd inner filling. (I know it sounds disgusting to most of you to put these two ingredients together.) I got two of them; one with white chocolate while the other with dark chocolate. The one with white chocolate was absolutely delicious; it tasted just like a cream cheese snack bar with mild peach flavor. On the other hand, the one with dark chocolate tasted extremely disgusting; the two tastes of dark chocolate and curd simply did not mix well together. I threw it away after just “two careful bites” (to make sure that I did not get the disgusting taste wrong).

    After we checked into our hostel, we went to a traditional Hungarian restaurant for lunch. I had chicken paprika served with egg noodle. The taste was very unique; the chicken was grilled and served with paprika gravy whereas the egg noodle was mixed with cheese. I enjoyed the combination, but the egg noodle was too much; I could not bear with the cheesy egg noodle anymore after finishing more than half of it. (Because I want to dedicate this blog to food, I am going to skip the detailed descriptions about places we went.) Then, I came across this very cool donut cafe which served “square donut”, “square bagel” and “square macaron”. I wanted to try them all, but the “square macaron” really caught my eyes. I picked up a square macaron sandwich with blueberry cheesecake ice cream filling; it was the best decision ever because the “square macaron” was too good! It was very flavorful; the tastes of macaron, cheesecake and blueberry mixed very well and was very pleasant for my taste buds.

    Next, I had “the real cheeseburger”. As the name suggested, it was a cheeseburger that came with fried cheese patty instead. It had arugula leaves, tomatoes and fried cheese sandwiched in slightly harder bun with special sauce; “the real cheeseburger” looked very simple yet tasty. If I could make my own “real cheeseburger”, I would make a thicker slice of fried cheese; imagine the cheese oozing out and filling up your mouth – “Yummy!” In the evening, I had Lángos burger. Lángos is one of the famous Hungarian foods, a deep fried dough which serves with whatever ingredients you want; a simple Lángos can be topped with sour cream and shredded cheese whereas a fancy one can come with pizza toppings such as mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, olives, sausages and so on. The one I had was Lángos burger, beef patty, arugula leaves and roasted paprika sandwiched in two slices of Lángos. The taste was one of a kind (like a burger but very distinct texture); I strongly recommend trying it if you happen to be in budapest!

    Now, my second day. (You are right! Finally my second day; I had so much food in one day, yesterday xD xP) It was a laid-back Sunday; I went for brunch at a well-known Hungarian restaurant named Gettó Gulyás. It is popular for its goulash; thus, I ordered a farm chicken paprika goulash with egg noodles. It turned out to look very similar to the “chicken paprika with egg noodles” which I had yesterday; but, it tasted so much better. The chicken was tender, and the paprika goulash was well seasoned but not overly thick. It also came with cheesy egg noodles, but the amount of cheese was just nice to provide sufficient flavor but not too heavy. The best way to serve it was to mix the goulash gravy with small cut of chicken and tiny portion of egg noodles. The taste of a mouthful combination of chicken and egg noodles with goulash gravy is a “mouth-watering bomb”! At the same restaurant, I also tried Hungarian pancake called Gundel Palacsinta. A hungarian pancake resembles a crêpe roll. There was dried orange filling rolled in the crêpe and served with blueberry chocolate red wine sugar dressing. The dried orange filling gave it a “crunchy” texture which I enjoyed, but the red wine taste was not my thing. A fancy part about serving Gundel Palacsinta was the servant would deliver the plate of crêpe with dressing to my table, pour some red wine on it in front of me and put up a fire on “the crêpe” with lighter. I could feel the heat coming towards me from the “burning” crêpe. Then, I ate the crêpe while it was still warm. It was an interesting experience!

    That evening, we went to a beautiful river side restaurant. The view was extremely gorgeous. We also got there at the perfect time; the sun was setting at its best angle. The sunlight hit on the buildings along the Danube River, creating the most stunning view of Budapest I could ever hope for. I took a photo there; it looked absolutely fantastic! However, the servant was busy, and we had to catch a night cruise; hence, we did not end up enjoying our dinner there. We got some quick bites from nearby McDonald’s. I like Hungarian McDonald’s because it offers tasty burger and affordable dessert. It included Hungarian famous paprika into its burger; to my surprise, paprika blended well into the burger and provided more flavor to it. The dessert sold at the McCafé was super cheap; I could get a slice of cheesecake or chocolate mousse cake at just 1 Euro!

Beautiful Riverside Restaurant with Gorgeous Sunset!

    My third day in Budapest was the most satisfying! I went to Central Market Hall in the morning; there was a huge variety of food. I started my first meal of the day with a Hungarian stuffed cabbage, töltött káposzta. It was a complete slice of cabbage stuffed with seasoned ground pork and rice; it also came with sour cabbage. (haih it’s hard to comment on this cuisine ;p) First off, I hate sour cabbage; but, the sour cabbage I got was not too bad (nor too sour) so I finished it. The ground pork and rice was so salty; but, when I ate ground pork, rice and sour cabbage all together, it did not taste that awful. Therefore, I finished it too. In short, töltött káposzta is sour and salty. If you like the taste, you will love it; if not, you will hate it ;p

    The stuffed cabbage was just my “appetizer” in Central Market Hall. I also checked out a couple well-known Hungarian pastries and desserts. Firstly, I tried rétes, Hungarian Strudel. I got the most popular flavor which was strawberry cream cheese. Sadly, it disappointed me because I was expecting the signature slightly crispy and crunchy texture from the strudel; but, it tasted simply like a strawberry cream cheese bread ;( I did not give up. I went to a different stall and got my second rétes. This time, I had a pure cream cheese rétes. Although the outer crust was still not crispy, but the cream cheese filling was very flavorful and satisfying. Overall, I liked it a lot :p

    This is not the end of my “food hunting” in Central Market Hall yet 😀 Next, I checked out the famous Hungarian sponge cake, Dobos Torta; it is a sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. The best part about Dobos Torta was I could taste the pleasing and soft chocolate buttercream intertwined with the sponge cake on every bite; there was nothing better I could hope for because the yummy chocolate buttercream was just too good to be true! The only thing about Dobos Torta which I would like to change is to make the sponge cake layers thinner and the chocolate buttercream layers thicker; this is because I LOVE the chocolate buttercream so much, but the sponge cake was mediocre ;p If this comes true, I will fall in love with every bite of Dobos Torta xD Because Dobos Torta was too delicious, I decided to get a second slice but the famous variation of it, Eszterházy Torta, walnut flavored sponge cake. Initially, I thought there was a generous amount of buttercream in it; the thicker brown layers should be buttercream whereas the thinner white layers should be sponge cake. However, it turned out to be the exact opposite. I was so upset that I only got so little buttercream ;d Even worse, the sponge cake layers were too sweet; I felt like a diabetic after finishing it :d

    For lunch, I had two soups, gyümölcsleves and halászlé. Gyümölcsleves is Hungarian cold fruit soup; it is served as an appetizer. It tasted very similar to thin berries flavored yoghurt. Mine came with whipped cream and strawberry syrup. I made sure that I mixed some whipped cream with the “soup” for every spoonful I had; the combination tasted great! On the other hand, halászlé is Hungarian Fisherman’s soup; it is a paprika-based fish soup with carp fillets. I have to say this is my favourite Hungarian cuisine thus far. The soup was thin but extremely flavorful; I liked the paprika taste. Moreover, there were fish flakes in the soup too; they give the soup a unique texture, and I loved it! There were also generous amount of carp fillets. The fillets were well cooked; they were tender, and, more importantly, rich in flavor as they absorbed just enough flavor from the soup. I strongly recommend everyone to try halászlé if you are in Hungary!

    To summarize, I had a lot of fun eating in Budapest! However, it came with two costs. First, about half of the food I had tasted quite bad (at least not my taste ;p) Perhaps it is the interesting part about tasting and trying new food. I never know if the food is going to taste good, but I am always adventurous and wanting to explore something new. The reward is I will at least get one food that is extremely delicious and worth all my prior “sacrifices” xD Besides that, the second cost of trying good food is I was so full. I did not plan my “eating schedule” well; therefore, I had too much on my third day. I even felt disgusting after eating 7 foods :d However, these two costs are not going to hinder my desire to keep trying new cuisines. The lesson I learned is to plan my eating schedule and limit myself to a maximum of 5 small meals a day so I do not overeat again. I am ready to try all the delicacies around the world!

    To answer this week’s prompt, my host culture defines “success” as getting work done on time and delivering quality work. There was one occasion where I was helping out my coworker to file invoices and letters into respective files. When I was very focused on helping her with filing, it was 6pm home time, and she told me to set aside the filing work and get home. Initially, I persisted to stay for another 5 minutes to finish the “last” bit of it; but, she said it was home time, and we should continue the next day. Hence, an effective employee in my internship shall get things done on time as I am not allowed to work past my regular work hours. Besides that, a successful employee shall strive to deliver high quality work. For instance, my supervisor always wanted me to pay attention to details. When I was filing a manual tax return, he asked me to reconstruct the T-account every time he spotted a mistake. One time, I put a couple items on the debit side; he told me the official way is to put them as negative figures but on the credit side. Theoretically my way was correct, but practically it could be wrong. Therefore, he made me to redo the entire tax return again. In conclusion, I agree that a “successful” employee shall be efficient and deliver excellent work. Because I did not have working experience in my home country, I cannot make a comparison. However, I believe qualities above are also being valued in my home country too!