The dishes indigenous to Hajdúság have changed a lot through the centuries because at some point or other of their development they tended to incorporate ingredients, spices, or herbs that had previously been absent from the region’s culinary palette. Nevertheless, important elements of medieval Hungarian cuisine are still very much in evidence on present-day menus: among other things, cabbage, millet, dried and smoked meats, and a variety of yeast-dough pastries.
Two absolutely crucial elements of Hajdúság cuisine are baked goods and “the greasy stuff.” The former used to be affectionately dubbed “ilet,” a vernacular form of the Hungarian word for life. The latter, not surprisingly, is best represented by bacon and pork fat. Hungarians inhabiting the Trans-Tisza region of the country have traditionally been big fans of various soups. They say it is no proper meal unless it contains some soup. Varieties typical of the area include “pergelt” (pasta based), meat, fruit, and milky soups. Among the much sought-after wares of county fairs, Debrecen pretzels also deserve special mention. If you are after truly genuine dishes from the region, try “dübbencs” (a rustic fistful of baked dough), “puliszka” (boiled corn flour liberally sprinkled with ewe’s cheese), Hortobágy “tarhonya” (egg barley), or “slambuc.” A traditional staple of herdsmen, the last is only considered authentic if cooked in a sooty stew pot on open campfire. Many local restaurants and eateries keep on their menus such classics as stuffed cabbage à la Hajdúság, “orjaleves” (with bits of boiled pork that practically melt on your tongue), meat-filled pancakes à la Debrecen, various grey-cattle-beef based dishes, or the spicy Hungarian fish soup. Check out the regular gastro-fests in the city’s event calendar and taste mouthwatering concoctions created from “mangalica” pork, turkey, or goose meat. For a change of summer locality, visit nearby Hajdúszoboszló and drop into Hajdúsági Aroma Festival to sample a veritable smorgasbord of traditional culinary goodies. These events are invariably spiced up to perfection by cookout contests, concerts, and other programs of cultural interest.