It’s one of those weird and wonderful things you only see on the menus of bars and restaurants in Hungary. Typically a starter, this not-so-pretty, not-so-healthy dish is great to nibble on at the beginning of a night out on the town.
Crackling has its roots in peasant cookery, where full advantage was taken from the riches of the land, and slow cooking was used while farmers worked in their fields. Peasant cookery is stick-to-the-ribs kind of food, and it depended on ingredients which were sourced or grown locally. It was also limited by the use of local produce, as well as the use of a single pot, a single heat source, and little or no access to imports, but these factors all gave peasant cookery a distinct identity.
Crackling used to be a by-product of lard making in Hungary before healthy cooking took over. While making crackling is easy, it is also somewhat time consuming due to the peasant influences of the slow cooking of the lard (pork, duck or goose).
To make the most of your crackling experience, keep the following tips in mind:
- Crackling is typically served with onions (red or spring onions) to give it an edge, and slices of fresh white bread are used to soak up the fat
- The pieces of crackling are dipped in salt to enhance the fatty flavour
- The texture is spongy and crumbly with the occasional crackling of the skin (hence the English translation of the word)
- Some swear it’s best to wash crackling down with beer while others prefer palinka – another Hungarian specialty; a strong, fruity shot that perfectly evens out the fattiness of the crackling
- In many restaurants it’s considered as a starter but few manage to eat anything else after a plateful of crackling
Crackling is definitely an acquired taste but once you get the hang of this fatty, crumbly delicacy there is no turning back.