Day: July 18, 2011

The Hungarian Stew or Pörkölt

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To dispel some misbelief: The pörkölt is a Hungarian stew with boneless meat, paprika, some vegetables and no potato. It should not be confused with Goulash, which is a soup (using meat with bones, paprika, caraway, vegetables and potato or different tiny dumplings or pasta simmered along with the meat), or Paprikás (using only meat, paprika and thick heavy sour cream). The traditional Hungarian stews: Pörkölt and Paprikás along with the traditional soup “Goulash” are considered to be the national dishes of Hungary. There are different pörkölt variations from region to region. In most parts of Hungary pörkölt is made with beef or pork. By the way the word Pörkölt simply means “roasted” and made of meat, onion, and sweet paprika powder. Bell peppers, tomatoes or tomato paste, green pepper and garlic are common additions to the basic recipe.

Any kind of meat can be used when making pörkölt. Most common are beef, chicken and pork, but game, tripe and liver can also be used. A popular meal in traditional Hungarian cuisine is a pörkölt made of tripe, called pacalpörkölt (Pacal is the Hungarian word for tripe). It has a unique and very distinguishable taste from other kinds of pörkölt, often being quite spicy.

Some tricks

Much of the quality of a pot of pörkölt is found in the use of the very few ingredients. The spiciness and the taste of the paprika powder used is very important to the taste. A simple Hungarian trick for making good pörkölt is first frying the onions in lard or oil, before making anything else. Then set aside the pot and immediately add paprika powder and the meat and “stir-fry” – (this is the origin of the verb “pörkölni” – to roast). This way the juices are kept inside. Water is added, the same volume as the meat. Pörkölt should be simmered slowly in very little liquid. Flour should never be used to thicken a Hungarian pörkölt. In Hungary pörkölt is served with pasta (tészta), tarhonya (big Hungarian pasta grains) or galuska/nokedli as a side dish. Boiled potato is also a common garnish, and pickles go with the dish nicely counterbalancing the heavy stew with a touch of sour.

There is a different style Hungarian pörkölt stew, tokány, a Transylvanian pörkölt stew that doesn’t emphasize the use of paprika. These are stews using black pepper and kitchen herbs like marjoram for spices instead, often made with mixed meats, vegetables and wild mushrooms. Tokány is often served topped with sour cream. The meat in the tokány is cut into thin long slices, not cubed.

My recipe:

Ingredients: 2 medium onions, chopped, 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes, 2 tablespoons oil, 1-1/2 cups hot water, 3 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, 1 l of meat bouillon

Directions: In a large skillet sautée onions in oil or lard fat. Add meat to it and brown in all sides. Pour off excess fat from skillet. Add bouillon to the meat, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Stir in the paprika, salt, (tomato paste and garlic are optionals). Cover and cook for 1 hour long or until meat is tender.  Prepare pasta or potato or galuska. Transfer meat to a large serving bowl; cover and keep warm. (Yield: 6 servings).

In the Czech Republic pörkölt is made with pork, beer, dark bread and caraway. Often large Czech knedlíky dumplings are served with it. In Slovakia the dish is called perkelt and is served with Halušky dumplings. Goulash (Polish: Gulasz)—a dish is similar to Hungarian Pörkölt—is also popular in Poland and is usually eaten with buckwheat kasha.