Pogácsa: Hungary’s Favorite Snack!

I avoid Metro stations in Budapest – not for bad reasons, but because they smell so dang delicious. At the entrance of many a Budapest Metro you’ll find a bakery. Once when an American friend came to visit me in Hungary, on his last day I asked him what he’d like to do. He said he wanted to go back and smell the Metro.

P1040047One reason the stations here smell so good is because they all sell pogácsa (po-gah-tcha). Pogácsa are small, bite-sized savory scones. They come in a wide variety: with cheese, cabbage, goose cracklings, potato, bacon, pumpkin seed, you name it. This ubiquitous snack is served at weddings, birthday celebrations, get-togethers, office parties. If Hungarians had Super Bowl bashes, which they don’t, there’d definitely be pogácsa.

P1040074But pogácsa are more than Hungary’s favorite nibble. They’re part of the country’s culture and symbolic of the journey of life. In many a Hungarian fairy tale the oldest son is sent off by mom to conquer the world with a knapsack full. When Hungarian high schoolers graduate, they’re presented at a leaving ceremony (ballagás) with a little satchel. Inside there is always a pogácsa for the journey.

For me, pogácsa is the kind of food that once I start eating – I can’t stop. I’ve been known to empty a mixing bowl full then ask if there are more. Last month, I was at our school-P1040108wide yard sale when I saw two third graders sitting at card tables selling refreshments. One was American, and the other Hungarian. Both had hand-made signs and cash boxes. The American boy sold lemonade. The Hungarian had – you guessed it – a basket full of pogácsa. I bought a couple then returned a few minutes later for some more. After the third trip back, I gave in and bought the whole shoebox.


34 thoughts on “Pogácsa: Hungary’s Favorite Snack!

  1. But those are not made by REAL bakeries, I NEVER buy anything there. We call those places “látványpékség” in Hungarian (not sure how to translate this but maybe “view bakery” would suffice). The view and smell are definitely there, otherwise their products are far from the original ones.
    If you think of these you won’t miss it :D

        • Sorry I didn’t see your comment.
          I live in the US now so I have to make them myself (it’s really not hard you should try it if you haven’t done it yet), but when I lived in Budapest I used to buy them at real bakeries (just like Timea said). I think some Cukrazda sell them too. (I also had a good one at the Skanzen in Szentendre!) I bet you were able to taste the difference when you had the home made ones at the school yard sale.

    • I think you had a bit too much Hungaricum ;-) Pogácsa is like sex: even when it’s bad it’s still pretty darn good!

  2. Oh Phil, I, too, head to the metro station, often just for fresh pogácsa. And when Tim and I were in Budapest in June and met you at Deák Tér, I had taken him there for some sajtos pogácsa! After one bite, he was hooked! They were fresh, warm, cheesy, and just salty enough. I’m with you – you can never eat just one!

  3. I adore pogácsa too, but rather than the metro there’s one place I prefer to go and that’s the Ruszwurm cafe in Buda just near Mátyás church. Their pogácsa are so delicious, as are their cakes. Szeretem a pogit!

    • @Eva,

      I think he’s referring to what they call “töpörtyű” which is the connecting tissue remaining from the fat tissue after the lard is rendered under slow heat.

  4. This brings back memories of my childhood. My parents were both born in Hungary. We lived on a farm and sometimes butchered pigs. My mother would render the fat from the pig into lard by chopping the fat into small squares and boiling the lard out of it. The small solid squares remaining after the lard was removed was töpörtyü which we pronounced something like ‘tep-pat-ter’. And when ever we had some töpörtyü, some we at as is with bread, and some of it was made into pogácsa.

  5. Wow… Shame on me, but I haven’t even known pogácsa is Hungarian. I mean, people usually mention lángos, but not pogácsa when they are talking about Hungaricums. I’m pretty proud now, pogácsa is awesome! Thanks for the lesson. :D

    • No, I don’t agree with you, Mary….the British scones are far away from pogácsa. Pogácsa is incomparable with British scones. I tried the scones from the shops, and I eat what my children baked in the school on food techonology, but no,i’ll never eat again…

  6. Try “Pekmuhely” (something like baker garage”) in the II. District, Batthyanyi street. He’s a real bakerman with very tasty products. Tell him you would taste the real pogacsa, and I am sure he will make it for you!

  7. For me my mother’s pogácsa is the best. But there are more Hungarian bakery which are worth a try. For example ‘rétes’ (My favorite is túrós) or kürtőskalács.

  8. Pingback: What the World Eats : Hungary – Part 3 | potsoup

  9. I would recommend to buy and try pogácsa in different confectioneries, there you can get really good ones, also different types with e g different cheeses (goat, sheep etc.). Delicious.

  10. It’s true that the best pogacsa are homemade, but there are many excellent “pogihaz”es (literally, “pogacsa (pogi, for short) houses”) all over the country. . . Best to buy whatever is fresh coming out of the oven and it’s likely to be delicious. Pogacsa is sooooo versatile . . . great as appetizers with wine, or for breakfast, or lunch . . . an accompaniment to dinner (to sop up sauces!) . . . people love to serve them at parties . . . Any which way, pogacsa is amazing! And I daresay, they are much better than English scones ;-)

  11. Hi! My village, where I live, called Kétegyháza (it means: two churches). In the village’s coat of arms there is a POGÁCSA. We have a legend about how people choosed the area to build home for their family, and in this legend POGÁCSA have a very important role. In memory of the legend the local goverment organize POGÁCSA Festival in every summer in August. In that time there is baking competition with many types of pogácsa. If you might be interested we welkome you on 2014 summer, or whenever you have time to know Kétegyháza. My town’s website: http://www.ketegyhaza.hu :-) P.S.: I think that Grandmothers make the best pogácsa all over the world!:-)

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