Onions are a key element to the flavour in Paprikash. In fact, old hands at it say the key to the flavour is actually not the paprika, but the onions and the fat.
The meat used is usually chicken, though it can also be made with veal or fish, and in Hungary, it is also made with offal.
The foundation is pieces of meat and chopped onion tossed in paprika. The paprika used is sweet (types such as “édes-nemes” or “különleges”), but you can add a small amount of hot paprika at the end of cooking if you wish (not that hot Hungarian paprika is really all that hot.) The meat and onion are browned in fat (bacon fat ideally), then chicken broth added, and the meat is braised until done. The liquid is then thickened with sour cream just before serving.
You end up with chunks of meat in a paprika gravy. It is usually served over noodles such as Kanadle noodles, “Galuska noodles” or “Nokkedli”, which are teeny Hungarian dumplings sometimes translated in English as “noodles.”
Authentic versions don’t have tomatoes in them, but some Hungarians in Hungary make it with tomatoes in it, anyway. Even their tomato versions, though, use only 1 or 2 tomatoes, not enough to affect the colouring, which comes from the paprika.
Paprikash is often compared with another Hungarian dish, Pörkölt.
|based on meat, onion, paprika||based on meat, onion, paprika|
|wider variety of meats||lighter meats such as chicken, veal or pork|
|less water, only partially cover the meat, very thick sauce that coats the meat||more water to make lots of gravy|
|more paprika||less paprika|
|no sour cream||sour cream added|
Both Pörkölt and a similar dish, Paprikash, are usually referred to (incorrectly but irremediably) in English as Goulash.
Paprika was introduced into Hungary by Turks in the 1500s and 1600s. It was treated as a garden ornamental in Hungary until about the 1820s, by which time it had become so popular in Hungarian kitchens that it displaced use of previously popular spices such as black pepper and ginger.
Spelt “paprikás” in Hungarian. In Hungarian, “Chicken Paprika” is “kuritsa s paprikoy.”
Davidson, Alan. Goulash Entry in: The Penguin Companion to Food. London: The Penguin Group, 2002.