A stall at the Great Market Hall

Paprika is ubiquitous in Hungary, and comes in many different variations (certainly, many more than I’m used to seeing at home), from mild and sweet to very hot.  While visiting Budapest, we made three trips to the Great Market Hall and I spent a lot of time looking at the different kinds of paprika sold there.  I asked one vendor the difference between two types of spicy paprika she was selling, thinking it was the level of heat, and she told me instead that the peppers were grown in different areas of Hungary, each with its own unique flavor.

Jude enjoying a piece of Hungarian salami

The Great Market Hall is eye candy for people who love food.  Long rows of dried hot peppers and garlic hang from the top of vendors’ stalls.  Varieties of paprika are sold in different pleasantly wrapped tins and bags.  Many bags of paprika come with a small wooden spoon, for scooping into your dish as you cook.  (I’m guessing this is to avoid getting bright red fingers.)  Butchers sell Hungarian salami (chock full of paprika), the rolls hanging from their stall ceilings like a short curtain across a stage.  We bought some during our first trip to the Market, and Patrick and Jude can verify that it’s tasty stuff.

The Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall was built in the late 19th century, at the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and is a commanding building both inside and out.  The outside is colorful and ornate (neo-Gothic), and the inside has three floors, tall ceilings and plenty of natural light.  The long grand hall reminded me of a typical 19th-century European train station.

A view of the Market from the top floor

Trying a food on its home turf is usually a pleasure.  We made chicken paprika in our apartment kitchen twice – a real delight.

Paprika is a main ingredient in goulash, a Hungarian specialty, and seemingly the country’s most popular dish (it was on nearly every menu we looked at, and many restaurants advertise themselves as serving “Hungarian Goulash”).  Although there are many ways to make goulash, the Hungarian goulash that we saw little resembled its US counterpart (pasta and ground beef).  Hungarian goulash that we saw (and ordered, repeatedly) came with heartier chunks of beef or veal, was a stew or soup, and usually was served with potato dumplings or bread.  The paprika gave it a nice warm flavor, and it was perfect on Eastern-European fall days.

The Hungarians take their goulash very seriously.  This is evident in the way they refer to their country’s political system during the Cold War: “Goulash Communism,” a mixture of Soviet communism and Western capitalism.  By most accounts, Hungarians enjoyed greater freedom from behind the Iron Curtain than did other communist countries.  One telling (and also food-related) example is that Hungary was an early Eastern-European adopter of McDonalds in 1988.  (According to one Hungarian we met, who was a child during the end of the Cold War, the McDonalds frequently spawned lines going around the corner or further.)

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  2 Responses to “Culinary Aside: Hungarian Paprika Tastes Really Good”

  1. Ah, Goulash! Are you bringing back any paprika? Bliss, I love your new haircut! You look so – so – cosmopolitan!!!!!

  2. Nice haircut Bliss! And yes we do Skype–that is the royal “we” I myself have never actually done it, but looking forward to “seeing you” on T-day!

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