A Bit of Cultural Flavor – Hungarian Food

This is the month for German food, I know. I’ve had my bratwurst, schnitzel, sauerbraten and strudel. I decided to be a little different this year and try to add a different flavor to our Oktoberfest. Hungarian food is similar to German foods. They both serve dumplings or spaetzle, just pronounce it differently. (spetzl vs. spetzla) They both believe in hardy meals that fill you up without needing a ton of ingredients. They also enjoy putting sour cream in their gravies for an added hint of comfort. There are plenty of differences, like all cultures. However you won’t know for yourself until you try.

In my hometown, there’s a Hungarian restaurant that has the best chicken paprikas and spaetzle I’ve ever had. What is it? Chicken paprikas is chicken cooked slowly in broth with onions and Hungarian paprika. Once the chicken is cooked, you remove it and add sour cream to the broth to make a gravy and serve it over the spaetzle or Hungarian dumplings. Sadly, I haven’t had good chicken paprikas for possibly ten years. I’ve tried recipes before, but they never worked. I was about to give up when I found an authentic Hungarian recipe passed down through the generations on Food.com. Thank goodness for the internet!

I decided to celebrate a successful week and give this recipe a try. It was delicious! My husband loved it and didn’t mind that we had the meal three times in one week. It’s going to be a very welcome addition to our meals, which means I’m one happy camper. The flavor is exactly like I remember it. The best part, it isn’t expensive or hard to make.

Small shopping hint – if you don’t make your own chicken broth, which is so much healthier and cheaper, stock up during the holidays. The closer we get to Thanksgiving, the more it will be on sale. After the New Year, the price practically doubles.

My Cooking Tips

  • This recipe takes a long time to make. It says it only takes two hours. Mine took three to get the broth right. (Probably because I didn’t use all of the heavy cream. See tip #2.) I put the leftovers in the fridge and it was so much better the second time. You might want to consider making it the day before.
  • The recipe calls for a whole pint of heavy cream. I didn’t use that much because it’s expensive and it’s really fattening. I simply let my gravy warm up slowly and thicken naturally. This way I didn’t need as much of the cream and still reached the perfect consistency.
  • You can use light sour cream to save calories, but not lose the flavor.
  • Make sure your spaetzle are around the size of a quarter. Otherwise, the center doesn’t cook properly. I have butchered spaetzle before and this is the best recipe. Just take the extra time and keep it small. You can use a colander to feed the mixture through, but that tends to get very messy.
  • If you are like me and can’t manage to make small spaetzle, don’t worry. Just cook them like the directions say. Cut them into small bite size pieces and toss it in the gravy. Let it warm up for 5 minutes while you’re multitasking and they’ll be perfect.
  • You do need to purchase the Hungarian paprika. You’ll find it in a red and white metal box in some grocery stores and all specialty stores. The Hungarian paprika is sweeter than regular paprika. It’s the only specialty ingredient you’ll need, but it is worth it. You can use it in other recipes, so it won’t be wasted.
  • Try the Hungarian salad included in the recipe. Each country has their own version of a sour cream/yogurt cucumber recipe. This is simply another variation. You won’t know if you like it until you try it.
  • If you want to know the perfect dessert to pair with this, make apple strudel and serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. If you want an easy foolproof recipe for apple strudel just let me know!

Please take a moment to give a little feedback:

Do you like learning new recipes from different cultures? Have you ever had Hungarian food? Is there a kind of cultural food you’ve always wanted to learn? Please post your comments below.

 *Photo by Baby Kato

True Hungarian Chicken Paprikas

By Paprikamama on November 29, 2006

Ingredients

    • 2-3 lb frying chicken, cut up
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
    • 1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
    • 1 teaspoon salt ( to taste)
    • pepper ( to taste)
    • 2 -3 tablespoons flour
    • 2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
    • 1 pint heavy cream

Directions:

Wash and cut up chickens into pieces. Heat butter in large skillet and fry chicken pieces till browned. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Pour off most of fat from skillet and add chopped onions and garlic, saute till tender, add paprika and cook for a minute, add salt and pepper to onion mixture. Add chicken broth and stir well to remove mixture from bottom of pan. In a large dutch oven or cooking pot, add broth mixture and bring to a boil, add chicken. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover all the chicken (if there is not enough, then add some water or more broth.) Cook covered on low heat till chicken is so tender it will fall off the bones. Remove chicken to a platter when fully cooked. Combine flour and sour cream, mix into the pot, cook slow, stirring often until thickened and smooth. At this point if sauce is not thick enough, add cream slowly while still cooking on low until desired thickness. You want to achieve a sauce that is a consistency of gravy, but not too thick. Once this is done you will need to make some dumplings as follows:

Spaetzle:

  • 3-C. flour.
  • 5 eggs.
  • 2 teaspoons salt.
  • 1/4 C water.

Mix ingredients together until smooth. Drop batter by teaspoons into boiling salted water. Cook 10 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Serve on plates and top off with sauce and chicken. This can also be served with the traditional Hungarian Cucumber salad.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream:

  • 2 cucumbers.
  • 1 lg clove garlic, pressed.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  • 2 T. vinegar.
  • 1/2°C sour cream.
  • Hungarian Paprika.

Pare cucumbers and slice into thin slices, place in bowl, add garlic, toss with salt. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Drain cucumbers very well. Blend vinegar with sour cream and add cucumbers, mix well and sprinkle top with paprika generously, and serve.

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5 thoughts on “A Bit of Cultural Flavor – Hungarian Food

  1. Looks and sounds gorgeous! I’ve not had Hungarian Spaetzle, but make mine using a spaetzle “hobel” a piece of perforated metal which goes across the top of the saucepan and where you push the paste through. TW in Germany sell contraptions for making spaetzle too, very quick and easy to use and quick to clean up. With a colander you would have to have very large holes, otherwise like you say it can get very messy!

    • My mother purchased a German spaetzle maker when she was in Germany ages ago. I commandeered it, however have yet to get very good results. It’s normally because of the recipes I’ve used. I decided to give the Hungarian recipe a try and follow the chef’s instructions exactly. Next time, I’ll break out the spaetzle maker and see if it’s even better that way.

      • There are a variety of spaetzle makers available in Germany: there’s the press, which gives you long-ish strands, similar to the spaetztle scraped off the board in Swabia, then there’s the perforated metal which gives you the shorter, more stocky shapes, which the Swabians call “knoepfle” and are slightly sniffy about :-), and there is also a special spaetzle colander… With the press you need s somewhat stiffer dough, but with the other version it has to be fairly runny and well beaten. Have fun!

        • I have the one with the perforated metal. I always ran into problems because the spaetzle were either too hard or too soggy. Apparently I’ve got to get my timing right. When I made the Hungarian ones, I toss the spaetzle in the sauce and let it simmer for a little bit and they turned out perfectly. Perhaps I need to cook the dough longer before fishing it out in the first place. I guess I’ll just have to keep trying until I get it right. Thank you so much for the information!

          • My “recipe” isn’t one as such, it’s just as much flour as you think you need, some grated nutmeg and salt, and whole eggs. Add a little water and beat it with your hand until there are no lumps and you have a very soft dough that pulls strings. It’s pretty messy for sure. I have the metal strip over the pan of boiling water, push the mix through it and once there’s enough in the pan I just let them boil up. I have a bowl of cold water right next to it, and once they’ve boiled up I fish them out with a perforated spoon and dump them in the cold water. continue until all the dough is used up. You may have to drain the cooked spaetzle and start with a fresh bowl of cold water, if you’re making lots. When you’re almost ready to eat you just toss as many spaetzle as you need in butter until heated through. Any leftovers (???) can be frozen.

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