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  1. I think you are talking about "salca" (pronounced sal-jah) which is the Turkish name. In Turkey it is made by putting skinned, seeded tomatos in a big, clear plastic bag (with holes in order to let moisture out) and placing this on the roof in the hot summer sun. There are lots of regional versions, some more or less fermented, many with the addition of pepper, some without. It is usually sold by specialized sellers at Turkish markets, but you can buy various brands in jars at any turkish grocery store. If there is a Turkish specialty shop near you I'm sure they would have some. "Antep" is a good variety, slightly spicy (if the jar says "acli" it means hot spiced) In a pinch, unsweetened tomato paste can do - you can doctor it up with cayenne if you wish. It is a concentrate so a lot of sauces are made by adding a tablespoon or so to some water or stock. Many kebab shops serve a spoonful on a plate for dipping kofte (meatballs) in.
  2. Bock Bisztro is probably the ruling choice among many of my friends. Excellent wine selection (it is the Budapest outpost of the famous Bock winery) and =rare for Budapest - high quality choice of ingredients for a Hungarian menu. Gundel... its been a joke for years. A more updated list of non-tourist-trap restaurants can be found at www.chew.hu. Also, mention of that NY Times article had me and my girlfriend - we both do travel and food writing - desparately trying to prevent our heads from exploding. The Dio, for example... a fine old resto trying something "new and radical" to survive on a street of incredibly expensive and very trendy bad restaurants. When you can find ginger home fries or anything with cilantro on a Hungarian menu it does not mean the chef is aiming at a creative fusion. It simply means he worked for a half year in a German hotel. "Asian fusion" means a handful of ginger and a few sprigs of cilantro bought down at the Asian specialty shop at Vamhaz market in the moring... The Times wrote a story about two years ago on fusion cuisne in Budapest which had us locals rolling in laughter - it was essentially a listing of some of the worst and most expensive eateries on the most expensive boulevard (Andrassy) all of whom "fused" ginger and cilantro into chicken breast salads to get the per plate price up. The simple fact is that they also source their meat and veg from the same markets that the school cafeterias do.
  3. It is good to see you have gone the digital camera route, Sazji! We need to watch cig kebab being prepared... from scratch...
  4. Another joke from the Jewish tradition on this topic: The Talmud states that when the Messiah arrives, there will be a great feast every day, and everyone will have a choice of two delicacies: either Ahavroth (the mythical giant ox) or Leviathan (the mythical giant fish.) So a Hasidic Rabbi is having a discussion with his students. The students ask "Rabbi, what would we eat when the Messiah comes? Should we order Ahavroth? Or should we order the Leviathan?" The Rabbi thinks for a minute and then answers "Play it safe. Order the fruit plate."
  5. I just looked over the Fodor’s list, and knowing who works for Fodors Guides, I am not surprised that it is about as inaccurate as you can possibly get without making a list up. Ignore it completely. The Al-Amir is not on Andrassy, it is on Király utca, and has closed. The Alhambra is not a Moroccan restaurant. The Castro has moved to Madach tér (and I will recommend it for Serb grills and the only legitimate gulyás soup in the downtown area. And cheap.) Use the Time Out Budapest City guide for a better guidebook, and check out Pestiside web blog restaurant listings. A lot of us old time foreign residents bemoan the state of the Hungarian restaurant scene today. Prices have soared, and pseudo-Germanic fusion cuisine seems to have taken over a lot of new menus: add soy and ginger and call it “Asian Fusion” and charge double. It has become hard to find good old Magyar chow, but it’s out there, mostly in neighborhood places out beyond the train stations. First, avoid the Gundel. It’s gone down tremendously. Instead, if you want upscale, eat at the neighboring Bagolyvár. Also, do not eat inside the Buda castle. Below the Buda castle at Moszkva tér/Szena tér market are sevral good eateries, such as the Markus etterem and the Szent Jupát. In Downtown Pest, the Fátal is good for basic Hungarian. The Kis Kacsa on Király utca (corner of Kazinczy utca) is another good, simple Magyar eatery. The Kadar Etkezde on Klauzal tér is great for lunch. The Arányhal, out on Thõkõly ut (Amerikai utca stop on the 7 bus – not the red express 7) is good for fish soup and regular Hungarian food. Also, pay a visit to the market at Bosnyak ter at the end of the 7-bus line. Old Slovak peasant ladies still wear folk costumes while selling vegtables in the back market, where you can buy illicit home-made palinka (plum brandy) on weekends from the stands (look for the clear liquid sold in plastic Pepsi bottles….) You can also get a good fresh langos (fried potato bread) at the stands in the back, but try the “fank” instead – a huge donut, fresh fried and topped with jam. For sausages and such, these things are eaten inside the butcher shop itself, and one on the corner outside of the Bosnyak ter market is exceptional for all things tubular and piggy. Another good market is the Lehel tér market ("piac") on the Blue Metro line. There is a self service resturant on the corner outside the market entrance. (They grill chickens by the entrance.) Try it out. Old fashioned communist workers' factory grub like we had in the old days. Cheap.
  6. Well, I was born in NYC but I live in Budapest. My son is bilingual, lives with his Mom, and has lived all of his life in Hungary. When he comes to my house he wants no part of Hungarian food - which I like and not surprisingly, is what the corner grocery sells. Head cheese, kolbász, stuffed cabbage. For my son, however, Papa's house is all about ethnic cooking, like pancakes, apple pie, matzoh ball soup, fried chicken, New Mexico lamb chile, best of all, home style sushi and seaweed salad (my girlfriend is Japanese from Tokyo.) And when he comes over with his friends, they all want to try strange concoctions he has raved to them about... like hot dogs on buns with mustard and sauerkraut (it was a big hit at his school "bring an ethnic dish" themed picnic. All the other kids brought ramen noodle packages or Grandma's Slovak potato soups.) These kids now use the word "pancake" to refer to palacsintas, and their Mom's ask me for recipes so they too can produce the stodgy, thick IHOP style pancake these kids find so exotic...
  7. Well, if you must have a curry wurst, must go to Konnopkes Imbiss, in Prenzlauer Berg, East Berlin, Schönhauser Allee 44a, under the elevated Metro line. Within a five minutes stroll you'll also find some damn good Vietmanese, Thai, and Palestinian felaful, as well as good old fashioned German take-out baked chicken.
  8. Prenslauer Burg! Also Kreuzburg for Turkish.
  9. I agree with Anzu - Berlin is where you are most likely to find good ethnic food in Germany. And please - avoid the Chinese restaurants unless somebody suggestes a good one to you. You will see a lot of places offering "Asiapfanne" - or "Asia pan" which is a slop consisting of meat, veg (with bean sprouts, of course) soy sauce and noodles stir-fried into a Teutonic glop of Oriental Stereotypes. Avoid it. Kebabs in Berlin are arguably as good as any in Istanbul - they use a nicer Anatolian style flat bread in Berlin. Some of the Felaful I have had in Berlin is as good as any I have had in Israel or NY - these places are usually run by Palestinains or Egyptians. Russian and Georgian food is plentiful. I usually have a ball eating ethnic street foods and snacks and rarely get around to eating fancier meals. Of course, I don't mind a bratwurst now and then. There are a lot of Indian places staffed by Indians and some I have tried are quite good, but remember: food will never be really spicy hot in Germany. A restaurant that truly adds hot pepper to its food will lose business and possibly get sued in Germany. I once asked an Asian shopkeeper why the dried red peppers I had bought in his shop were not really hot, and he said his German customers would complain if the peppers burned their mouths. I am not exaggerating. I carry hot sauces on me when I have to travel in Germany.
  10. Yes, I saw the film last August in a theater off Istiklal Caddesi. It was strange watching a film that presented Beyoglu as so exotic while actually sitting in Beyoglu. And when I got hungry watching the German rock star eating all that good food I knew that all I had to do was walk outside the theater and there it all was waiting for me. And no, it wasn't the pee that was blue from salgam...
  11. A basic rule of thumb when eating in Central/Eastern Europe: food is fuel. You eat it so that you are not hungry anymore. The "foodie" phenomenon never developed here, nor will it. "Fancy Restaurants" exist mainly to be a place where the noveau riche (a very mysterious species in east Europe) can see and be seen - it is never about the food. That said, Bratislava can be a great place to eat as long as you understand that Slovak food is peasant food, it isn't meant to be married with Thai flavors or elevated by using kobe beef. The dumplings: halushki. I love them, starchy, bland, dressed with greasy bacon bits, and screaming "Slovakia!" all through the meal. I can eat it every day, as many slovaks do. If you are vegetarian, forget it. There is no way the Slovak cook will leave off his carefully diced and fried bacon bits. Up around Ruzemberok and Liptovsky Mikulas in the mountains they make it with really smelly sheep cheese and slice sausage onto it. Mortality on a plate. Most Bratisalva restaurants do offer broiled trout, which can be quite good. Regular old viener shnitzel is possibly better here than in Austria. Garlic soup is a common starter: simple boullion with garlic and bread cubes. Slovaks are good at various bean soups as well - always with some smoked meat. You won't find elevated cuisine here, but you will be served good stick-to-your-ribs food at a very decent price.
  12. Sazji: Yes, the Fatih Meat Market is one of my favorite places - I was always buying liters of fresh salgam juice from the seller there. Salgam is one of my favorite edibles in the whole universe: sour red carrot/beet?/vegtable juice, bright red and often spiced hot. Available in small bottles from most kebab sellers. Also one of the world's best hangover cures. The one problem with drinking liters and liters of salgam a day - as I would - is that your digestive system converts that bright red into a stunning shade of blue. Er, Brenna (Macrimmon?) - one of the absolute greatest voices in Turkish/Canadian traditional music - doesn't like Kokorec? I'm stumped!
  13. In Istanbul I have seen it for sale - near the Egypstian Spice Market, for example - next to heavy wooden cuttiong boards where the seller shaves it into thin slices with a huge heavy knife, rather like shaving parmesan. If it is really hard you could try a wood plane. I suppose any mild sheep cheese - such as Greek Kasseri or kashkaval - could subsitute for kashar. Yes, the menemem recipe is really a great take on scrambled eggs.
  14. Yes, there is pide, and it is flat, but it is not quite the same as the middle eastern pita bread that became widely known as the bread for felafels worldwide. A whole book should be written about the variety of flat breads available at Istanbul kebab houses. For my money, the breads that are served with buryani kebab (pit roasted lamb) are the winners. Every time I visit Istanbul my first lunch stop is the Fatih meat Market near the Aquaduct. Lamb, lambn, and lamb. Then I wind up having kokorec someplace in Sikedji... sure, it is a fatty shit sandwich. But it is a very good fatty shit sandwich.
  15. An exciting discussion. Having spent the summer eating my way through the balkans and Turkey, I'll add a few thoughts. To talk of "Turkish" or Greek" cuisine conjures up mental maps of those nations, and lurking in the background someplace is the ghost of 19th century nationalisms and their attendant baggage: the [*Insert Nation Name*] Cookbook. Most of the cookbooks I have read that propose to describe "Greek" or "Turkish" or even "Romanian" national cuisines have been at best innacurate, and at worst big steaming cow patties of misinformation. It would be best to speak of a Balkan cuisine or an Ottoman cuisine, both of which have melded and have regional and class distinctions, and have permuteated over seven hundred years to create related cuisines. To speak of "Turkish" cuisine, to give one example, we can see the various cultural layers in something as simple as baked goods. We have things such as flat breads, which reflect an ancient nomadic past harking back to a time when there were no bread baking hearths. In order to produce "cakes" this tradition developed the layered-flat-bread phenomenon known to us as everything from baklava to borek. In the meantime, Europeans had been settled for generations in the Pera/Galata district of Istanbul and brought with them french bakers and Italian confectioners, so today some of the best french-style breads and cakes to be had are found in Istanbul. And the bakers widely acknowledged as the best in Turkey are the Hemshin - Muslim Armenians from the eastern Black sea region (which is known for excellent big yeasty loaves of bread in the Trabzon area as well as nearly indigestable corn bread.) (Oh, and you don't see pita bread in Turkey at all. Doners come wrapped in flat bread or in french bread.) Until 1920, the main Greek cities were Istanbul, Smyrna, and Trabazon. Greeks were a part of this Istanbul/Pera culture until the events of 1923 (referred to as "the Catastrophe in Greek) displaced multiudes of Constantinople, Smyrna, and Pontic greeks to the Greek mainland. They brought more eastern regional flavors to modern Greek cuisine. They also brought their upper-class desires for fine french style baking and confectionary with them, along with their love of baklava. Furthermore, certain tastes are regional within the cuisine. Istanbulis are marked by an affection for eating mussels - avoided by most Turks - and for kokorec, the grilled gut-and-chittlin' roll that is part of the ritual feast eaten by Greeks at Easter time. The Kokorec obsession is getting very big in Istanbul these days, with special Kokorec restaurants popping up in chic neighborhoods as a way of saying "We are classy Istanbulis, not internal immigrants from Bingol or Hatay!." Needless to say, the Kokorec tradition is one of many Greek-oriented food traditions that marks the specific local cuisine of Istanbul. Is one better than the other? No. They are different but related. I prefer Turkish versions of kofte. I prefer Greek fish dishes. And in general, I prefer not to eat anything cooked in Bulgaria, but when I have to it will usually be roast chicken. But that is another story...
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