A Hungarian snacking tray or “hidegtál” (as its called in Hungary), is cold plate similar to an Italian antipasti plate. A hidegtál can consist of whatever is in your pantry or whatever the chef feels like adding. A snacking tray is, for the most part, a charcuterie board, cheese board and vegetable board all in one. With small bites and nibbles of just about everything you can imagine to snack on, and there is no wrong way to assemble one.
When I visited Budapest, snacking trays were abundant and varied from simple to elaborate depending on where I went. In a recent Saveur article I read it referred to these snacking board as “low-key brilliance”, and a “crowd-pleasing party food without fuss or formality“. Truthfully, I could not agree more. A snacking tray is perfect for any size gathering, and these eclectic boards can easily be pulled together without much advance planning.
Essential Foods Found On A Traditional Hungarian Hidegtál:
- Bread: Thick slices of fresh crusty white bread.
- Fresh Vegetables + Fruit: Sweet Hungarian wax peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes or root vegetables. Hungarians will typically put out the whole fruit or vegetable.
- Charcuterie: Pork salami, dry sausages, often paprika-rich, (sweet or hot), cracklings, bacon, ham and at times goose or pork served thinly sliced.
- Pickled Vegetables: Onions, okra, pickles and beets, anything at all fermented.
- Körözött: A spread of cheese curd made from either sheep or cow milk.
- Cheese: Commonly made of sheep milk.
- Pate: Typically Foie gras, a Hungarian specialty
The components of a true Hungarian snacking tray will always be different, depending on who prepares it and can be served any time of day. In Hungary these popular trays are served for breakfast, as a light mid-day meal, or as an appetizer to nibble on before a more formal dinner.
The real art of these tasty trays is in the blending of sweet, sour, and savory, all of which co-existing together perfectly. It’s a combination that allows you to make, bake, buy, or just gather your way to a wonderful looking spread.
The holiday season may be coming to a close. However, the start of a new year brings more opportunities for fun, casual gatherings with less work. My advice, be ready. A well stocked pantry for any unexpected guests is what that means for me. Although I prefer homemade dips and spreads over store-bough ones, the truth is, sometimes I buy them. But the real trick here is to “buy well“. Many smaller boutique companies offer great, small-batch products that are worthy of the slightly higher price tag.
I recently discovered Terrapin Ridge Farms which makes fantastic artisanal products. My Hungarian snacking tray in this post features their killer Hot Pepper Bacon Jam. A lovely, flavorful, sweet-savory jam that goes perfectly with a flavorful sheep-milk cheese like Manchego. Terrapin Ridge Farms has several great products that work well for entertaining.
I will always be a fan of food “boards.” Boards, are an easy, elegant way to display food. Simple or grand, you honestly can’t go wrong. Hungarians will traditionally incorporate baked goods; such as strudels, biscuits, cookies and rugelach to make the trays an “all-in-one meal” if desired where the best part, no utensils or dishes are required.
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