This area, populated by the Szekely people, has variously been considered Hungarian, German, and Romanian. Presently it is a part of Romania. The forests and mountains, as well as the people themselves, have contributed to the lore that is part poetry, part legend, and part mythology. Stones of ghosts, trolls, and spells abound and seem somehow to fit into the atmosphere of misty forests and dark mountains.
But a fine cookery, tradition is also prevalent and it includes many dishes or versions of dishes that taste differently than the general cuisine of Hungary. From Romania, the Transylvanians have adapted cornmeal and use it for breads and dumplings; and from their own fields they have plucked tarragon and summer savory which they use as abundantly in their cookery as the rest of Hungary uses paprika.
Sauerkraut is a part of the Transylvanian szekely gulyas and forms the base of many casseroles with pork or noodles. Tokany is a delicious pork and beef stew simmered with wine and finished with sour cream. Flax is eaten as a vegetable and many main dishes are created around grape leaves or cabbage leaves stuffed with imaginative mixtures of finely chopped and seasoned meats and vegetables. Cross-cut wooden slabs provide the wooden platters for the famed grilled dinner of pork and sausages, pickled cabbage (especially cika, the cabbage core) and cucumbers with potato salad. This grilled dinner on a wooden platter is called fatanyeros and is often served as a specialty in many Budapest restaurants.
Pork is an important staple and pig-killing day (Disznotor) means much work in slaughtering the pigs, smoking, curing the meats, and preparing many types of sausages. But it also means special feasting foods, almost all based on pork: paprikas, soups, roasted meats, sausages, all accompanied with pickled vegetables and much wine.
The area also makes good use of locally prepared fresh curd cheese, cream and sour cream. Often these too differ in flavor because they may be prepared from sheep’s or even buffalo’s milk.