Budapest Foodies Hope Cuisine Can Help Heal Anti-Migrant Prejudice : The Salt Forget the goulash. Budapest's restaurants have been featuring refugee cuisine — think Syrian sweets, Afghan pies and Eritrean flatbread. It's a festival to foster understanding through food.
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Budapest Foodies Hope Cuisine Can Help Heal Anti-Migrant Prejudice

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Budapest Foodies Hope Cuisine Can Help Heal Anti-Migrant Prejudice

Budapest Foodies Hope Cuisine Can Help Heal Anti-Migrant Prejudice

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, the threat from ISIS is one reason we're seeing so many people flee to Europe. Not all countries have been welcoming. Hungary, for one, has put up fences to keep people out. And yet, in Budapest last week, there was a festival celebrating refugee cuisine. It's part of an effort to counter anti-migrant sentiment. Here's reporter Lauren Frayer.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Normally, the hipsters who come into this bohemian bar in Budapest fill up on stuffed paprikas and goulash, but tonight, they're digging into Afghan pie, Eritrean bread, Syrian sweets.

JUDIT PETER: It's little bit difficult because not all the ingredients available in Hungary, so a few of them are coming from Austria or other countries.

FRAYER: Judit Peter's bar is one of 10 Budapest eateries serving up food from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia in solidarity with refugees because, she explains...

PETER: If you don't know something, you can be afraid of it.

FRAYER: A newly arrived Eritrean refugee, Luwam Melake, hands out special menus with facts about her native culture and cuisine.

LUWAM MELAKE: Most of them, they don't even know the name Eritrea. It's like OK, it's a neighbor of Ethiopia.

FRAYER: She and her cousin perform a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony for curious Hungarians.

TESFAY: I'm going to roast them on the fire here.

FRAYER: After a crash course in Eritrean cuisine, local chefs proudly ferry out steaming plates of flatbread piled with chickpeas and meat stew to Hungarian diners like Victoria Csorgo.

VICTORIA CSORGO: Yes, the very first time (laughter).

FRAYER: And what do you think?

CSORGO: It's great. There's a sort of pancake and tastes a bit like rye bread, and it's very spicy.

FRAYER: Another restaurant holds a trivia quiz with questions about Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I know it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What is it?

FRAYER: This festival was organized by aid worker Hanna Mikes with a 5,000 euro grant from Norway's development agency. The restaurants got so many reservations, they're thinking of expanding.

HANNA MIKES: It be lovely to take this project to places, for example, where we have refugee camps. Those people who are living close to the refugee camps should know more about the people who's inside the camp.

FRAYER: Here in cosmopolitan Budapest, restaurant owner Ivan Sandor says most of his lunch regulars have been happy to try new dishes.

IVAN SANDOR: I think most people are fed up with being political.

FRAYER: And, he says, the way to people's hearts is often through their stomachs. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Budapest.

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