It’s always refreshing to stumble upon a restaurant that you’re unaccustomed to, and Creole cooking in Hungary certainly fits the bill, as it’s far from taking up a fight with Lángos for popularity. I visited Soulfood sometime around its very beginning, because it stood out as unavoidable as the only Creole restaurant tucked between three Jewish ones on Kazinczy street. An ex-jazz singer, a gentleman named Attila, decided three years ago to bring home the Louisiana Creole-Cajun world of flavors that he had come to absolutely adore. Since then, Olga runs the kitchen, and they have been steadfastly delivering energetic dishes that you really won’t find elsewhere in this country.
This type of cuisine rests on the pillars of crazed eating. A collection of the cuisines of a bunch of different peoples all welded together, wherein Caribbean, American, Creole, Spanish, South American, and God knows how many other cultures’ flavors are mixed together. Some dishes have a distinctly Hungarian feeling as well, as this is the only culinary branch besides our own to still thicken with roux (they’re not messing around with Slim Fast either). Colossal portions, mountains of meat, shrimp and corn everywhere.
Above, you can see a ‘random selection’ plate, which is theoretically for one person, but really isn’t at all. Isn’t it beautiful? Those BBQ chicken wings and ribs bring a new dimension to the term Barbeque. The soft chicken meat hidden below a sticky, sweet-citrusy veneer, and the saucy ribs are totally different than local attempts at barbeque. There’s a spicier boogie at work here, that adds a twist to the whole thing. Side dishes attack from four sides: sweet potato chips, grilled corn on the cob, salad, and Creole rice and beans. The sweet potato fries are a mind-blowing invention, especially dunked in the mango-lime-chili sauce; we were full from these alone, but naturally the corn didn’t help us avoid getting prematurely full either, as you immediately take to them like an old person to a candy bar. The rice and beans didn’t even have a chance.
Now this will make you cry. At a glance, it looks like a paella, but only from a distance, and then you immediately start trying to defend yourself, of course this isn’t paella, not at f@#$%^& all. I’m willing to hazard a guess that your mother wasn’t serving up gumbo every Saturday during your childhood. This might be the most interesting dish, since it’s the most familiar to the Hungarian palate, even if the mussels hanging out in there aren’t exactly typical of the Great Hungarian Plain. It’s base, to express myself crudely, is a sausage and bean stew, as it is might almost the same way, with a roux. In the middle, a mound of rice, around it corn, mussels, and shrimp. Perhaps the best word for the overall effect is exciting; you have no idea what is happening while you’re eating it, but you love this disturbance in the force.
Burger and Sandwich
You can find burgers here as well, which may strike you as more familiar, but thing that makes this ‘Soulfood’-y is the mango mustard, and the presence of chili and lime. The smallest size is the Large, but there are XL and XXL versions as well. The other big gun, the pulled Jerk Pork sandwich is a little more adventurous, thanks to the brutally spiced pork, pepper jam, mango mustard, and
Jesus, how big is this thing?
At this point my system began crying out for some sort of shot, to collect my strength to continue the fight against this monstrously-huge portion of food. The problem is, I’d happily eat more, but the hard drive is full d#$% it.
Caribbean and Creole
There are one or two curries on the menu as well, which shouldn’t be confused with Indian or Thai versions. Creole curry is a marriage of chicken, ginger, pineapple, vegetables, and rice, while the Caribbean version combines chicken, peanuts, coconut, and plantains, and is served with home-made bread. Both curries are sweeter and fruitier, than other versions we might be more familiar with.
In addition to the menu, there is a pretty popular daily selection. There are a ton of Hungarian and foreign regulars, who flock here every day for what’s on offer. Looking at the clientele, I can’t decide if I’ve ever seen this many different nationalities in such a small space. Soulfood is a slightly different player from the rest of the restaurants in the party district. It’s as though your grandmother is cooking for you, if your grandmother was a Cuban refugee from New Orleans. There’s an indescribable Soulfood feeling, which makes the whole place extremely appealing. Unusual yet somehow familiar flavors, with a sort of family atmosphere that is still different from what we’re used to. This isn’t just a place to try; its’ a place to go to regularly.
Kazinczy u. 32, Budapest 1075
06 70 233 0866
Translated from an article by Péter Csákvári at gastro blog Men & Tál.
Images by Péter Csákvári.