Growing up with mostly Vietnamese and some Hungarian cuisine, chilli was not just another flavour in my bowl. Although the two cultures could not be more apart, chilli was an ingredient that was everywhere in the kitchen. Since I’ve been a child, I had unknowingly been accustomed to a moderate spice level, so I can’t stand mild dishes for a very long time.
In Vietnamese cuisine, birds-eye chilli or chilli sauce is used to spice up all the dips, sauces, broths and soups I can think of. Hungarian cuisine is not entirely without chilli – one of the most famous Hungarian spices is the smokey spicy ground paprika, not to mention Erős Pista and the spicy green pepper.
So if you’re a fan of moderate to mild spicy food, these are the things I’d recommend to try whether you’re in Hungary or Vietnam.
Get ready for the collision of peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
- Gulyás Soup (or goulash)
I often hear it being described as a broth (which is not far from the truth), it is a classic Hungarian soup originally made by shepherds. You know it’s right when you can taste the smokiness of it. Dip into it with some fresh bread and garnish it with spicy peppers or chilli paste.
- Fisherman’s Soup
Made with fishtails and lots of paprika, this dish resembles a broth more than gulyás. As with many Hungarian dishes, a slice of fresh bread will make this a wonderful lunch, but if you prefer it spicier, add some fresh chilli to it.
- Stuffed Sauerkraut
There are so many versions of this dish across the globe, but a Christmas gone without this dish is rather sad for me. Each household makes it differently, but I like to add a little chilli into the broth and cook it to perfection. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche (or two, if you are me) and a slice of bread.
- Chicken Paprikas
Everyone makes it differently, so paprikas varies between mild to moderate. Nevertheless, the more paprika you use the more flavourful it gets.
When an average meal takes about 2-3 dishes, there’s an item that can be universally used in all of them (and I’m not talking about Jasmin rice).
- Nuoc Mam Pha
It’s a sauce to flavour it all. Made with a smart blend of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, water, garlic and chilli, this is a staple in so many Vietnamese dishes, not just bun cha.
- Garlic and Chilli Soy Sauce
It is what it is – chopped garlic and chilli stirred in soy sauce. It is a basic sauce to go over rice and fried eggs.
Whether you’re having pho, pho xao, or bun mang vit, when you’re in Vietnam, make sure you have the chance of trying Sriracha out.
- Mam Tom
It doesn’t look appetising and it certainly doesn’t smell appetising, but with the right ingredients (sugar, garlic, chilli) and dish, this Vietnamese shrimp paste will become one of your favourites. If it’s not, it’s an experience you’ll definitely remember.
I actually had some trouble coming up with all these dishes, so is there anything else I left out? Let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure to eat my way to it.
Happy eating, everyone!