Forget grill accessories like brushes, aprons, and fancy sauces. For a classic Hungarian barbecue—called a szalonnasütés, or bacon roasting—all that’s required is a thick hunk of bacon (preferably with few streaks of meat, mostly pure fat), a peeled onion, a few thick slices of bread, a stick, and a fire.
Here’s how it’s done: A fire is built, everyone collects his stick, sharpens the end, and then carefully prepares his soon-to-be feast. The bacon (which can be a big as a quarter of a kilogram) is scored several times both lengthwise and crosswise into a checkered pattern, the onion is halved, and the stick is then pushed through the bacon and half of the onion.
The skewer is rotated over the fire, the bacon begins to sizzle, and the flames pick up when the bacon fat drips into the embers.
Meanwhile, while the bacon is slowly roasting and getting crispy, the bread is used to collect the hot bacon drippings. Roasting bacon can’t be rushed, so the bread and drippings are to snack on while the main attraction roasts.
When the bacon is nicely crisped, remove it from the stick, cut off little pieces of bacon and onion, and eat it with the bread. It sounds old-fashioned, but the almost ritualistic szalonnasütés is still a Hungarian tradition, practiced even by scouts and summer-campers. Even those Budapest yuppies who rarely get their feet dirty in the countryside eagerly anticipate a szalonnasütés on a summer night.
This is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Food and Wine Lover’s Guide to Hungary: With Budapest Restaurants and Trips to the Wine Country, by Carolyn Bánfalvi. Text is copyright © Carolyn Bánfalvi and Park Kiadó, and is reproduced with permission. To find out more or to purchase the book, contact Park Kiadó or Carolyn Bánfalvi. Photos are copyright © Carolyn Bánfalvi, and are not from the book.