Tuesday, September 13, 2011

He’s Back and He’s Bad (from Hungary)

Erin posted many beautiful pictures of our Budapest
trip on American Barbaric- about 1/3 architecture,
1/6 food, and 1/2 miscellaneous craziness.

Well, I promised a flurry of chip reviews when I returned from my vacation in Hungary, but instead I was overtaken with a fit of laziness and sucked into another major project, developing and releasing a tabletop fantasy wargame tentatively titled ‘Tide of Battle’ (I'll put a link up once I have a site ready).

Lajos Kossuth was the internationally renowned dissident
journalist and president of a doomed Hungarian revolutionary
republic.  Kossuth is also the powerful Fire God of the
Forgotten Realms.  Coincidence? I think not.  
This has resulted in a massive disserve to all you chip-voyeurs, but I actually have also been busy writing up reviews for later release, just not posting them (finding the pictures and adding the funnies takes more time!)  Let us just say that the trip to Magyar Kingdom revealed a highly developed chip-eating culture.  In fact, as I will soon detail, the Hungarian fondness for deliciously caloric foods has resulted in their passinga tax on chips just last week! The goals is to encourage consumers to buy less junk food (it applies to soda and other snacks), chip manufacturors to make them healthier (thereby paying lower tax), and for the currently cash-starved government to rake in an additional $100 million euros to be spent on health care (which I must admit, is peanuts by American standards.)  Well I clearly should be outraged that my favorite food is being surcharged, but I actually am a great believer in ‘incentives-based’ policies.  However, given that traditional Hungarian foods will not be subject to the tax, there is good reason to suspect that there will be rather minimal effects on reducing obesity, as shall soon become apparent.

Hungary is where Rohan learned to charge
down the castle ramparts sweeping their foes
before them (see 1:58).  The glow on the
painting is not an illicit camera flash, but
Gandalf arriving in the distance.
Fortunately for me, I arrived before the tax was in place, and I also got to revel in Hungary’s wonderful history of doomed badassery.  Kind of like Poland,  the Magyar people of Hungary spent the first half of the last millennium taking names, and the second half rebelling against foreign occupiers (Ottomon Turks, Austrians, Russians), while hybridizing their background as wild horse archers from the steppes with a reputation for romantic intellectualism, courtesy of their Austrian occupiers-cum-reluctant-partners-in-empire.

We didn't try jumping off the
balcony but the idea definitely
occurred to us.
So besides the Hungarian reputation for doomed-bad-assery, Budapest is a beautiful city with so many gorgeous buildings and monuments you’ll want to shake a stick at it, without being half as crowded or polluted as Paris.  Furthermore, they have two excellent things going for them: delicious cooking at utterly affordable prices, and hot-spring baths.

Asparagus, wrapped in ham,
wrapped in fried chicken breast,
in crispy fried gnocchi cooked
in a gorgonzola cream suace,
with a sweet balsamic sauce
on the side. For 6 Euros.
Thanks, Ruben!
I leave it at that for the baths, but the cooking is a little more topical.  Besides the stereotypical Gulash soup, Hungarians basically love finding new ways to combine meat with cream and then more meat.  Also, vegetables with cream and meat.  Howabout soft palacinka pancakes filled with cream, and meat if you want it?  Perhaps a helping of heavy pasta with cream and meat as well?  Don’t forget a creamy poppy seed makos desert- no meat though.  And besides the utterly obvious reasons that this so great (not for you health, obviously) is that while you might pay $20-30 for comparable entrees at an ‘average’ French restaurant in either France or the United States, in Hungary you pay 8-20 per person for the whole meal if you know where to go.
Navajo fry bread was a concept so brilliant
it was also spontaneously created in Hungary
as is known as Langos.  We did not take
advantage of the version covered in meet
cheese and cream.  Not kidding.
So let’s just say Hungary was culinary happy times for me, and I recommend it on that basis alone, but the Hungarians stores were also diversely stocked compared to those in Paris.  Now these chips tended to come from two sources: domestically produced by the Chios chips company (which has a very wide range of offerings), or as one would expect, various offerings from Lay’s tailored for the Central European market.  (As Hungary is too small at 10 million people to have an entire market segment, they are instead marketed to a common region that includes the Baltic states, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Poland.) 

Courtesy of the National Musuem,
we can see the dreaded Hungarian
'bending-holy-laser-beam' effect.
Chio’s offerings proved to be extensive and varied, but surprisingly, Lay’s Central European products also sported a number of brilliantly tasty and well-conceived items that I have yet to see in France or America.  (Perhaps some are derived from American releases that I have not yet been exposed to.)  So read on for the first of my Hungarian chip reviews, and hear the tale of my fried-potato slice discoveries in the Kingdom of the Magyars…

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