Recommended Reading

We recommend all of the books listed on this page to help you dive deeper into Hungary’s food, wine, culture, and history. Note: This page contains affiliate links to Amazon.com, which means we may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.

Food and Wine

Food Wine Budapest
By Carolyn Bánfalvi

Written by Taste Hungary co-founder Carolyn Bánfalvi, this is the book that launched Taste Hungary! The first culinary guide to Budapest, CondéNast Traveler called it “the indispensable guide to Budapest.” The book covers Hungarian culinary history and traditions. It’s also a practical guide containing the vocabulary you’ll need to explore Hungarian food and wine; dozens of restaurant, café, and shop reviews; descriptions of Hungarian dishes and wines; and lots of local color. Despite its history, its vast repertoire, and its variety, Hungarian cuisine is one of the most underappreciated and unknown European cuisines. This book helps you get acquainted with it.

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Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague (Revised Edition)
By Rick Rodgers

Prolific cookbook author Rick Rodgers is a wonderful guide to the legendary cafes of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. Even if the recipes for such Central European treasures as Esterházy torta and Sacher torta will not be prepared in your kitchen (though Rodgers instructions are clear and precise, so why not?), anyone who loves these elegant cafes should still pick up this book for the fascinating history and anecdotes about these historic places. Once second homes to writers and artists of all sorts, these cafes have played an important role in Central Europe for more than 300 years.

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Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World 
By Robert Smyth

Local expat wine writer (and Taste Hungary tour guide) Robert Smyth has been chronicling the Hungarian wine scene for years. This resulting book shows his excitement for what is happening here, and is a wonderful guide for both learning about Hungarian wine, and for visiting the regions on your own. This book can be used either as a travel guide, or a resource for finding out more about the history, the grapes, the regions, the technology, the traditions, and the people.

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Zingerman’s Bakehouse
By Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo

We are huge Zingerman’s fans, and are thrilled for this chance to have a book full of the Bakehouse’s delicious recipes! Bakehouse partners Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo have produced a wonderful resource for bakers, which happily includes many of the Hungarian recipes served at the Bakehouse—such as lángos, dill pogácsa, and Esterházy torta. Zingerman’s fans not near Ann Arbor can now recreate some of their specialties at home!

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Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power
By John Szabo

Winner of an André Simon Food and Drink Book Award, this book does not only focus on Hungary, but on all of the important volcanic wine regions. In this fascinating book, Szabo introduces geology, volcanism and the correlation between soil type and wine composition. He discusses the impact of terroir and soil type, and the characteristics of wines coming from volcanic areas. It’s a great resource, and includes gorgeous photographs. It’s accessible even to the casual wine lover who doesn’t want to be bogged down by too many technical details.

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Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes
By Cortney Burns and Nicolaus Balla

Chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns have created a masterful and original cookbook. Fans of Bar Tartine, the popular (but now closed) San Francisco restaurant, will love this book. But so will anyone who appreciates this style of cooking focusing on house-made everything, layers of flavor, and mastering techniques like fermentation, curing, and pickling. They also have an affinity for Central Europe and Hungary, and include wonderful sections on paprika and some other Hungarian and Central-European inspired recipes.

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Hungary: Its Fine Wines and Winemakers
By David Copp

David Copp writes engagingly about Hungarian wine, focusing on the winemakers, the places, and the special grape varieties. Gorgeous photography and maps bring the book to life.

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Tokaj: A Companion for the Bibulous Traveller
By David Copp

In this volume Copp focuses on the magical Tokaj region. It’s a travel guide to the wineries and winemakers of Tokaj, revealing where to go, what to drink, where to eat, and what to see in the region. Our copy has been well worn from heavy use on many trips to Tokaj.

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Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition
By Miles Lambert-Gócs

Miles Lambert-Gócs has written what is the most detailed resource on Tokaj wine in the English language. Organized in alphabetic entries, this encyclopedia of Tokaj focuses on the historical figures involved in this region, the places and vineyards, and the grape varieties and winemaking traditions. It’s a must-read have reference for any student of this famed region, and it really brings the region’s past to life for modern-day wine lovers interested in the history of the region.

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The Hungarian Cookbook
By Susan Derecskey

This classic cookbook has been in print since the 1970s, and has stood the test of time. It’s a great resource for classic Hungarian recipes for cooks in America (and elsewhere). The recipes are mostly straightforward (like Hungarian cuisine itself). The only thing outdated in this book is the wine pairing recommendations, which seem quaint now that Hungarian wine has developed so wonderfully since then!

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Culinaria Hungary
By Anikó Gergely

As part of a series of photo-heavy world food books, this comprehensive guide to Hungarian food covers nearly every aspect of Hungarian cuisine from onions and lard to descriptions of holiday celebrations and regional specialties. There are also many recipes, but it’s much more than just a cookbook. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in Hungarian cuisine. Like all other books in the Culinaria series, this photo-heavy volume includes descriptions of everything from paprika and sausage to wine and pálinka. Armchair travelers will feel like they’ve been transported to Hungary, and those planning a trip to Hungary will surely be compiling a list of things to eat and drink.

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A Taste of the Past: The Daily Life and Cooking of a 19th-century Hungarian-Jewish Homemaker
By András Koerner

This book reconstructs daily life in the household of the author’s great-grandmother, Riza. Koerner has brilliantly provided an entertaining and complete picture of life at the end of the 19th century for a Hungarian Jewish woman. He had a cache of family artifacts to work with, and he has also included recipes and drawings. Lucky for us readers, food was important in the household, and the narrative is brought to life by descriptions (and instructions) of the foods she served daily, as well as the special foods prepared for the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays.

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The Cuisine of Hungary 
By George Lang

Half food history and half recipes, this is the most thorough history of Hungarian cuisine that exists. It’s highly recommended for anyone interested in Hungarian history or its cuisine. Written by George Láng, a charismatic restaurateur, food historian, and excellent storyteller, this is the book that we use as a nearly constant reference. His memoir, Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen, is also a great read. Sadly it is out of print, but used copies can be found from various online sources. We recommend picking up a few!

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Transylvanian Cuisine
By Paul Kovi

Paul Kovi, who was a co-owner of Manhattan’s famed Four Seasons restaurant, was just as well known for his masterful tome on his the culinary history of Transylvania. Kovi went to university in Transylvania, and left after the Communists took over in 1947. The book took him years to research, and the result is a classic, combining masterfully told stories, well-researched history, and a ton of recipes. It’s out of print, but used copies are available.

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Fiction

Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe
By Mattt Henderson Ellis

This novel, written by one of Taste Hungary’s writers and longtime Budapest expat, tells the story of a young American who ends up as a barista in Prague, resolving to recreate the cafe chain where he worked in Chicago by single-handedly breaking into a new market and introducing capitalism to Prague.

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Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts
By Julian Rubinstein

The wildly improbable, but true, story of a legendary Budapest bank robber. The book also tells the story of Budapest in the early-1990s, when it had a Wild West-like atmosphere.

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Bridge at Andau: The Compelling True Story of a Brave, Embattled People
By James Michener

This historical novel about Hungary’s 1956 revolution is a great read, with tons of insight into the revolution.


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Sunflower
By Gyula Krúdy

Krúdy, one of Hungary’s most prolific 20th century writers, is known for his gothic-fairy-tale-like prose. Hungarian food is closely tied in with the country’s literature, and perhaps no other writer captures the romance of the early-20th-century Budapest café society and the magic of Hungarian food better than Krúdy.

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Life is a dream
By Gyula Krúdy

Gyula Krúdy, one of Hungary’s most-loved and admired Hungarian writers, wrote this collection of ten short stories in 1931. In typical Krúdy fashion, the characters fall into plenty of comic, romantic, nostalgic, and erotic scenes in early twentieth century Hungary. Always with Krúdy, there is food and wine heavily involved, bringing the stories to another level.

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Two Prisoners
By Lajos Zilahy

Lajos Zilahy was born in 1891 in Transylvania and emigrated to New York in 1948. He was considered by many to be the finest Hungarian novelist of the century. This grand sweeping novel was set in Budapest during the First World War, and tells the story of a couple whose lives are shattered by the war. The young husband joins the army and is taken prisoner, but the couple struggle to remain true to each other during their years of separation. Their story ends up in Siberia. This epic novel transports the reader to pre-World War Two Hungary and Russia, and follows through until the aftermath of the war.

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Embers
By Sándor Márai

Originally published in 1942, this novel was rediscovered, translated to English, and published to great reviews. It takes us back to the end of a decaying empire, full of melancholy glamour and disillusionment. Two old friends meet in a secluded castle for the first time in four decades, rehashing the past and their last meeting together, which included the long-dead wife of one of them. Their meeting consists of long conversations, accusations, painful memories, and loaded silences.

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The Door
By Magda Szabó

This novel explores the relationship between two very different women, which ends in a devastating and startling revelation. Magda, a highly educated writer married to an academic, has come to depend on Emerence, her illiterate housekeeper, a peasant living alone in a house that no one else can enter. Over time Emerence takes increasing control over Magda’s home, and they both somewhat come to depend on each other and respect each other.

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Journey by Moonlight 
By Antal Szerb

Antal Szerb’s novel is a dreamlike look into the troubling adventures Erzsi and Mihály encounter on their honeymoon in Italy. From Erzsi discovering that Mihály prefers wandering back alleys on his own over her company and a hostile man on a motorcycle endangering them at an outdoor café, to running into an old friend who persuades Mihály to search for another old friend and rivals threatening the relationship, the novel is an exciting and disturbing voyage.

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A Journey Round My Skull
By Frigyes Karinthy

This book was written while Frigyes Karinthy suffered from what would later be diagnosed as a brain tumor. It is his description of his descent into this illness which caused fainting, giddiness, his eyes going blank, and his handwriting becoming illegible. His illness first came to light as he sat in a Budapest cafe writing, and appeared to him as a loud roaring that prevented him from working. This book is a fascinating description of his illness as it progresses, his observations, his feelings, and the responses of his loved ones and doctors.

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The Adventures of Sindbad
By Gyula Krúdy

This is Gyula Krúdy’s most famous book. It evokes the coming of the end the Habsburg Empire, starring the irresistible iconic hero, Sindbad, who travels the land searching for love and seduction.

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Skylark
By Dezső Kosztolányi

Around the turn of the 20th century a mother and father, living in a dull provincial Hungarian town, are devoted to and captivated by their only child, Skylark. She is utterly plain and simple, and spends her days cooking and cleaning for them. Then she goes away for a week and the parents come back to life, keeping themselves busy by socializing and wining and dining. Finally after a night of over-imbibing, the father surprises both of them by revealing his true, deeply hidden, feelings about Skylark.

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Travel


The 500 Hidden Secrets of Budapest
By András Török

András Török is one of the best chroniclers of all of the little details that make exploring Budapest such a pleasure. This insider’s guide introduces 500 hidden secrets, including buildings restaurants, shops, museums, galleries, neighborhoods, gardens, and cafes. With Török as your guide, you can veer far from the usual tourist path to get to the soul of the city.

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Rick Steves Budapest

Rick Steves is one of our travel heroes, and we highly recommend this book for travelers to Budapest. It includes self-guided walks, and since it is regularly updated, it’s as accurate as any guidebook could hope to be! It also includes discount codes for some of the tours and venues that he recommends.

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Blue Guide Budapest
by Annabel Barber

Like other books in this series, this guide is designed for travelers who want to more fully understand what they see in Budapest. It’s a comprehensive and well-researched guide (written by a longtime Budapest expat), concentrating on history, architecture, and art. There are useful maps, and recommendations for where to stay and eat.

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History

Budapest 1900: A Portrait of a City and its Culture
By John Lukacs

This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to learn how Budapest became the city it is today. It hones in on the period of 1896-1906, a golden age for Budapest, during which the city as we know it today was largely built. It was an exciting time for this relatively new city, characterized by both provincialism and optimism. Lukacs really focuses on the city’s writers like the poets Endre Ady and Mihaly Babits; the novelists Ferenc Herczeg, Sandor Hunyady, Frigyes Karinthy, Dezso Kosztolanyi, Gyula Krudy, Kalman Mikszath, and Zsigmond Moricz; the political essayist Dezso Szabo; the playwright Erno Szep; and the literary historian Antal Szerb. This was the period where coffeehouse culture reigned, and Lukacs takes us into this fascinating time.

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The Battle for Budapest
By Krisztian Ungvary

The battle of Budapest (December 1944 to February 1945) was one of the longest and bloodiest city sieges of World War II. Krisztian Ungvary, a distinguished Hungarian historian who specializes in the World Wars, has produced the definitive account of this battle, which raged in the heart of Budapest, terrorizing locals. The battle comes second to Stalingrad in terms of human loss.

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The Great Escape
By Kati Marton

This is the story of the journey of nine extraordinary Hungarians from Budapest to the New World. They grew up in Budapest’s golden age, were driven from Hungary by anti-Semitism, and had extraordinary experiences along the way, and then in their new homes. All of them changed the world in some way, contributing to nuclear technology, computers, films, literature, and photography. This is an American story, and also a Hungarian one, which revealing the immense intellectual potential which Hungary lost. Author Kati Marton, an award-winning former NPR and ABC News correspondent, fled Hungary herself as a child.

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Memoir

Fatelessness
By Imre Kertesz

“In his writing Imre Kertesz explores the possibility of continuing to live and think as an individual in an era in which the subjection of human beings to social forces has become increasingly complete. Kertesz upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.” — The Swedish Academy, The Nobel Prize in Literature 2002

This masterpiece tells the story of 14 year-old George Koves, sent from Budapest to Auschwitz. He doesn’t particularly think of himself as Jewish, and is an outsider in the camp due to his lack of Yiddish. The book is praised as a masterpiece for its honesty and its complete avoidance of sentiment during this haunting tale.

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Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen
By George Lang

George Láng’s life story reads like a fast-paced screenplay. In 1946 he escaped from a labor camp and learned that his parents died in Auschwitz. He arrived in New York with dreams of becoming a concert violinist. Instead, he became the man who “creates restaurants”. He is also the author of the definitive book about the history of Hungarian cuisine, The Cuisine of Hungary. He was a man filled with passion for everything that he did, and his humor shines through even when he was at his lowest.

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Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America 
By Kati Marton

Kati Marton tells the story of her own family and their escape from Communist Hungary in this book. She tells of the horrors that her parents experienced by the government, the betrayals they experienced by people they trusted, and of their harrowing escape to America and struggle to begin again and build a new life there.

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  • Best Contribution to Wine & Spirits Tourism

  • Best Wine Tour Operator (2017)

  • Best Wine Tour Operator (2018)

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    Certificate of Excellence Winner (2011-2018)