Page 67 - WCM 2023 Winter Flip
P. 67

 Székely GuyláS
Not Simply Paprika, But a Cultural Experience recipe and photos by Aranka Matolcsy
If one flavor was to represent the vibrancy of culture and the depth of history of Hungary,
it would be the paprika (proper pronunciation: POP-ree-kah). It is a spice so complex it can carry an entire dish, yet so subtle it can garnish side dishes with underscores of sweet pepper that highlight, but not overpower, each one. I offer one of my favorite traditional dishes as
an introduction, or new adventure, with this marvelously versatile spice: Székely guylás with drop noodles and cucumber salad.
Székely guylás, or Székely stew (dating to the 1840s), is a savory and hearty dish of braised pork with sauerkraut in a paprika and tomato base with caraway seeds, topped with sour cream, and often served over homemade drop noodles. Guylás (pronounced GOO-eeyash) is not to be confused with goulash, which is an Americanized one-pot dish, to which the only connection seems to be paprika.
As the daughter of war-exiled Hungarian Fine Arts Professor Lajos Matolcsy (1905-1982), I learned early on the importance that paprika holds to Hungarians. It is so much more than a spice; it is part of national identity. I remember my American mother getting so excited when she found “real Hungarian paprika,” which wasn’t so easy to find in rural Maine in the 1970s. Believe me, the kind of paprika matters. Do not substitute anything else for Hungarian paprika.*
My mother was always trying to replicate the dishes of my father’s homeland, but never got
it exactly right. It wasn’t until I met my half-
sister, Ildikó Tóth Sándorné, and spent countless hours in her kitchen in Tarcal, Hungary that I started learning the rich history of Hungarian gastronomy, and how paprika is used in traditional cooking. Rule one: don’t skimp on the fat, and make sure it is flavorful lard, bacon fat or butter. Paprika “blooms” in rich fats.
Through my studies, I discovered there is one definitive source on Hungarian gastronomy: George Lang (1924-2011). His publications are considered to be above reproach. His work, The Cuisine of Hungary, is analogous to the Joy of Cooking, and is a Hungarian history course and
encyclopedic cookbook in one. Lang was born to a Jewish family in Hungary, and escaped execution when the Nazis turned the territory over to the Soviets in 1946 - the same power transfer that allowed my father’s escape. Lang’s interpretation of Székely guylás is simply the best. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
When I taste Hungarian paprika, I don’t just experience a flavor; I take a journey into a rich, harrowing and perseverant culture of people whose identity is spoken through the rhythm
of their ancient language, sung in their songs of survival, woven into their vibrant folk art, and carved into the statues of their kings. Try some Hungarian paprika tonight and take a journey of flavor like no other!
* Here in western Maine you can find Hungarian paprika at the Good Food Store in Bethel and the Fare Share Co-op in Norway.
Székely Gulyás (Székely Cabbage) Ingredients:
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/8 Lb. lard or butter
1.5 Lbs. lean pork, diced into 3⁄4 inch cubes 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Lbs. Sauerkraut
1⁄2 tsp. (or more to taste) caraway seeds
1 Tbsp. (I use 2) Hungarian paprika (substitutes will not provide proper flavor)*
Salt to taste at very end
1⁄2 C. sour cream (garnish)
Method: Wilt onion in lard or butter in heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add pork, mix well and cook covered for 5 minutes. Add paprika, then tomato paste; mix well. Add just enough water to cover and cook on very low heat until meat is very tender, 1.5
– 2 hours. Squeeze sauerkraut well. Add it to the pot along with the caraway seeds, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Salt should only be added at this point to taste. Ladle over noodles (below), top with sour cream, and serve with brined cucumbers.

   65   66   67   68   69