Hungarian cuisine – Paprika and goulash
The Hungarian language and culture has intrigued many European historians for thousands of years, partly because to the blending of Eastern influences with Western traditions and partly because of their rather unique language. However, we’ll be talking a look at how traditional Hungarian cuisine is influenced by these various factors, and others.
It should be noted outright that authentic Hungarian cuisine won’t be for people on a diet, dishes tend to be by their inherent nature heavy and fatty, while also being rich in aroma, flavor and texture. Traditional dishes are largely centered around meats – particularly pork, seasonal vegetables, fresh bread, cheese and honey.
However, if there’s one thing that people associate with Hungarian cuisine is the heavy use of paprika, so let’s talk about that for a bit.
It’s interesting to note that paprika wasn’t specific to the area until the Ottoman Turks began their centuries of conquest and withdrawal, which had a major impact on the gastronomy of the region, paprika being one of its symbols.
Paprika steadily increased in popularity, as the region’s climate and soils were favorable to growing it, and also because it became a functional alternative to pepper, which in those times was extremely rare and expensive; once pepper started to increase in price, the homegrown spice started to be used more and more, seeing as how it was considerably cheaper.
Another characteristic of Hungarian cuisine is the very wide use of pork, it’s interesting to note that this is due also to the Turks who would take all other domestic animals during their raids, except for pigs, since they didn’t eat pork because of their religion. The gastronomic influence of the Turks also spans to the introduction of riced pilafs, strudel, tobacco, tomatoes, corn and cherries; equally important is that they introduced coffee as well.
The other most well-known Hungarian dish is goulash, which is a soup or stew of meat, noodles and vegetables – mostly potatoes – seasoned with the aforementioned paprika as well as other spices. The dish originated here but it spread to many surrounding countries, reaching even to Scandinavia and some regions of Italy.
There are many variations of goulash, as it would be expected from such a flexible list of ingredients, you need some type of meat – usually beef, veal, pork or lamb – paprika, as well as other spices, and a range of vegetables, and of course oil or lard. There are plenty of options to change ingredients, add some, subtract others, the one thing that it has to have is paprika, and lots of it.
Stepping away from the particular and dipping into the general, Hungarians in general are fond of soups, desserts and pastries, as well as stuffed pancakes. It’s obvious that there’s more to Hungarian cuisine than paprika and goulash, but a little bit of background info on the two won’t hurt.
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