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Hungarian Food - Gulyás, Pörkölt, Paprikás and Tokány - The Four Pillars

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The Four Pillars of Hungarian Cooking

Gulyas

Gulyas

Hungarian Food

Hungarian Food

Porkolt

Porkolt

Paprikas

Paprikas

Tokany

Tokany

Hungarian Food

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Gulyás, Pörkölt, Páprikás and Tokány

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The Four Pillars of Hungarian Cooking

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According to George Lang, in his classic cookbook, "Cuisine of Hungary ", "The four pillars of Hungarian cooking are gulyás, pörkölt, paprikás and tokány." Most people have heard of goulash and paprikash, but not many people are familiar with porkolt and tokany. My plan is to give you a brief description of each and to explain how you can tell them apart.

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1. Gulyásleves - (Goulash Soup)

Most Americans think that Hungarian goulash is a stew made with paprika. In Europe they know that it is actually a hearty soup. What we think of as gulyás here is much closer to what Hungarians would call a pörkölt.

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George Lang states that when making goulash, "The more parts of beef and beef innards are used, the better the gulyás will be. Of course, lard, bacon and chopped onion are absolute musts." "Never use any other spice besides caraway. Never Frenchify it with wine. Never Germanize it with brown sauce. Never put in any other garniture besides diced potatoes or galuska. But many variations are possible---you may use fresh tomatoes or tomato purée, garlic, sliced green peppers, hot cherry peppers to make it spicy, and so on."

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2. Pörkölt - (Stew)

This term does not translate well into English. In Hungarian, the verb pörkölni means to singe or roast. According to George Lang, "The meat for this stew should always be diced, but in somewhat larger pieces than for gulyás. Paprika, lard or bacon are mandatory." "Of course onions are required too."

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Other ingredients, such as tomatoes or green peppers are optional. The key difference between porkolt and gulash is that porkolt is a stew, not a soup, so it contains much less liquid. Also, porkolt does not contain potatoes or dumplings, although dumplings may be served with porkolt but not in it.

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3. Paprikás - (Fricassee)

The chief difference between pörkölt and paprikás is that paprikás is finished with sweet or sour cream mixed with a little flour and pörkölt and gulyás never contain either. In addition, paprikás is usually made with chicken or veal.

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4. Tokány - (Ragout)

Tokány is the driest of the four dishes with little or no liquid added. In addition, tokány is made with strips of meat rather than cubes and is traditionally seasoned with black pepper and marjoram rather than paprika. Depending on the region of Hungary where it is made, the variations on accompaniments are limitless, ranging from puliszka (cornmeal dumplings) to beans.

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In order to further clarify the differences. I have prepared the following table: (Please note that this table is intended as a set of guidelines since there are no absolute rules to follow.)

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The Four Pillars of Hungarian Cooking

IngredientGoulashPaprikashPorkoltTokany

Beef

Yes

 

Yes

Yes

Pork

Yes

 

Yes

Yes

Game

Yes

 

Yes

Sometimes

Organ Meats

Yes

 

 

 

Veal

 

Yes

 

Sometimes

Lamb/Mutton

Yes 

 

Yes

Yes

Goose/Duck

 

 

Yes

 

Chicken

 

Yes

 

Sometimes

Size of Meat Pieces

Small Cubes

Medium Cubes or Chicken Parts

Medium Cubes

1 1/2 Inch by 1/4 inch pieces

Lard or Bacon

Yes 

Yes 

Yes 

Yes

Onions

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Garlic

Yes

No 

Yes

Sometimes

Tomatoes (Chopped)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Optional

Tomato Paste

Sometimes 

Sometimes 

Sometimes 

Optional

Green Pepper

Optional

Optional 

Optional

Rarely 

Sliced Mushrooms

No 

Sometimes.

Rarely 

Sometimes

Water or Broth

2 Quarts

8 Oz. 

As Needed 

Very Little 

Wine Added

No

No 

Rarely 

Sometimes

Potatos

Yes.

No 

No 

No 

Lard or Oil

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Flour

None

Yes, to Thicken

None

None

Caraway Seeds

Yes

No 

No 

Yes

Marjoram

No 

No 

No 

Frequently

Paprika

Yes

Yes

Yes

No 

Salt

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Pepper

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Cream

No 

Sometimes

No 

No 

Sour Cream

No 

Yes

No 

No 

Dumplings Included 

Usually 

With But Not In

With But Not In 

With But Not In

 

 

 

 

 

Hungarian Gulyas Soup

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George Lang’s Cuisine of Hungary

If you only plan to buy one cookbook this year and if you enjoyed my recipes on Hungarian food,I highly recommend this cookbook. Owner of Café des Artistes in New York and the magnificent Gundel restaurant in Budapest, George Lang not only provides authentic recipes from the various regions of Hungary, he also provides historical information and anecdotes on their origin.

This is one of my very favorite cookbooks of all time.

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Hungarian Paprika

Comments

Lurraine on January 08, 2015:

I was sesiruoly at DefCon 5 until I saw this post.

Sondra from Neverland on November 28, 2011:

You have no idea how much I appreciate this hub! I was just talking to a Hungarian friend the other day about traditional Hungarian recipes and now I have a very well laid out hub including the four pillars. Thank you

rjsadowski (author) on September 29, 2011:

Try it. You will like it. Try making the galushka too if you want the real thing.

jenniferrpovey on September 29, 2011:

Mm...now I want goulash, drat you!

rjsadowski (author) on September 29, 2011:

Thanks for your comments. I found that most people know very little about Hungarian food even though it is one of the most varied and interesting cuisines of Europe.

Jyoti Patil from Mumbai on September 29, 2011:

this food looks awesome!! i feel hungry!!i loved the fricassee

Riviera Rose from South of France on September 29, 2011:

I found this hub while hub-hopping, and not knowing a thing about Hungarian food found it really interesting. Thanks!