The aroma of exotic spices intermingles in the air across unpretentious street-food stalls found within an off-beat city neighbourhood. This is Chinatown, a District X trading zone found at Budapest’s Monori Center for Asian business. For the regular Night Market events recently introduced here, you’ll find an abundance of ginger-infused tripe, hot crayfish and spicy pork trotters, available to anyone who ventures into this exotic world. Expect an Oriental culinary jaunt across bizarre settings and a delightfully organised chaos.
Found near the Kőbánya railway overpass in lesser-explored District X, the Monori Center is a huge commercial zone where warehouses and outlets proffering Asian merchandise line the streets. Trade here is in apparel and exotic food items often unavailable elsewhere in the city. But this idiosyncratic locality not only deals in the buying and selling of goods. In the same neighbourhood, you’ll find Oriental healing centres, places of worship and even beauty parlours focused on an Asian clientele.
And when the shops close for business in the afternoon, a part of this complex transforms into a grand gastronomic bazaar, where multiple shops sell what is considered the most authentic Asian cuisine in town. Besides the area’s popular restaurants like the Cantonese Milky Way and the more elegant Spicy Fish, culinary outlets cover a wide palette of Chinese cuisine offering delicacies region by region.
Summer’s Night Market events add even more vibrancy to these gastronomic gatherings. Every day from 5pm, a grand tent opens to guests, offering some of the best Chinese street food available in Budapest. One eatery specialises in hand-made dumplings, another concentrates on barbecued treats, where dishes are grilled by diners. Customers, mainly of Asian origin, spend hours feasting alongside cacophonous groups of friends and family.
Without featuring any revolutionary concepts or flashy amenities, this culinary haven focuses on traditional Asian food. Plastic chairs and tables are provided for seating and courses are served over the counter. Here, vendors won’t substitute key Asian ingredients with cheaper local vegetables, like many of Budapest’s Chinese fast-food buffets often do. Instead, dishes feature just the right amount of bamboo, lotus, daikon and exotic mushrooms.
Grilled treats are plentiful, lamb, calamari, tofu and even stuffed fish balls, all prepared on skewers. Fresh seafood, including shrimps, octopus, oysters and mussels, are sourced mainly from Italy and served with a spicy Asian kick for the Night Market. Then there is the aromatic hot pot, a treat of mixed delicacies prepared in an iron skillet.
From chicken feet to exotic vegetables and octopus, the hot pot dish can contain nearly any ingredient selected by the guest. What is offered as a small-sized portion is adequate for five to six people and it costs 9,500 forints. Across the market, many other dishes are also offered for sharing between more people.
Woks are put to good use every day from 5pm and the market is open until 10:30pm from Mondays to Thursdays and closes just before midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. After dinner, special Chinese Karaoke halls await guests until late at night. Current market dates featured on the event's Facebook page run until July 22nd.
Having a night out here feels like visiting a market in Hong Kong or Shanghai. What brings you back to Budapest is the view of the nearby Communist-era buildings that characterise the landscape, instead of gleaming office blocks.