Hungary’s largest rural city stands out in terms of gastronomy. In addition to the Debrecen sausage which has long been declared as Hungarian speciality (Hungaricum), there are many others.
Stuffed cabbage was voted the worlds best meat dish by TasteAtlas in 2020, and it is the stuffed cabbage prepared in Debrecen, in the traditional way that is considered exceptional, the preferred method, and for good reason:
Although the stuffed cabbage is well-known and popular in several regions in Hungary, the stuffed cabbage prepared in Debrecen style is unique because, typically it is created with “debrecen sausages”, which, as already mentioned are exceptional and unique to the region, – Hungaricum in its own right.
Puff pastry is popular throughout Hungary, and while not unique to Hungary, the “dübbencs” type of Puff pastry originated in the area. It is a salty pie made of bread dough, filled with sheep wurd and sprinkled with dill.
Dübbencs is a typical traditional pastry belonging to the peasant food culture. Its origin goes back to the 14th century when the peasants began baking fermented bread. It was baked in the regions where high-gluten wheat was grown and bread consumption was high. From the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, different versions emerged. The warm greasy versions were also baked in Northern Hungary.
There is no shortage of sweets in the northern Hungarian region either. We must mention the gingerbread made here. Gingerbread was made in many variations across the country due to having a long shelf life, but the traditional gingerbread from Debrecen is unique. It is a red and glossy cake prepared in various shapes. It is usually decorated with white foam and colored roses and is interesting because it has already been added to the local list of foods to be declared as Hungarian specialty (Hungaricum). If you are in the town, you can see the famous gingerbread bakery of Sándor Kerékgyártó at today’s Batthyány street (no 4.), while the furnishings of the merchant’s shop can still be seen in the Déri Museum.
In the Hortobágy region, many gastronomic treasures can be found. One of these is beef goulash, which is a traditional steppe dish and it is named after the shepherds who guarded the gray cattle. It is also considered one of the most popular Hungarian dishes abroad, although it is prepared a little differently there according to the availability of meats. The other special shepherd’s dish is the slambuc. It is made from toasted smoked bacon, “lebbencs” pasta and potatoes baked and turned thirty-three times.
Popular dishes here also include meat pancakes from Hortobágy (Hortobágyi húsos palacsinta). This is a salty pancake filled with meat. Although it’s only link to the region is its name. In reality, it was inspired by the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
Last but not least, we can’t forget the Újházi-chicken soup which is the invention of the actor Ede Újházi, one of the delicacies of Hungarian cuisine and, according to many, one of the most popular dishes.
According to the writer Endre Nagy, Újházi “did not regret the effort and cost. He traveled to Debrecen to obtain the material of his own invention soup”. According to Újházi, old roosters with love in their muscles were needed for this soup. The ingredients had to be cooked for three days and then cooked with the vegetables, especially the legendary celery. Offering this soup was a sign of his distinctive attention.