Discover the history and tradition of this amazing ‘red gold’ spice
A trip to Hungary will teach you many things, and the unwavering Hungarian love for paprika will be one of them. It’s a firm favourite in the spice rack of locals, and you’ll find it featured within many traditional dishes. But how did it become so popular?
Although not native to Hungary, paprika has long been a staple used in Hungarian cuisine. It was originally introduced to the country when Christopher Columbus returned from the New World with chilli peppers and it was the silk road which allowed the humble chilli pepper to make its way through Turkey and into Hungary.
At first, the peppers were used for decoration purposes and to treat mild fevers, but then eventually it was discovered that the dried pods could be ground to make a delicious spice. As well as being a tasty addition to a main meal, paprika is a great source of vitamin C. In fact, per gram it has more vitamin C than tomatoes.
Gulyásleves is one of Hungary’s national dishes and it’s definitely worth a try when you’re visiting. It is a goulash made with meat and vegetables and seasoned with the finest paprika. For those who are really taken by the taste of this spice, paprikash should be on your foods-to-discover list. It’s a chicken dish that is named for its ample use of paprika – the chicken coated in seasoning is usually served with another Hungarian speciality, nokedli – egg noodle dumplings. Or perhaps you fancy trying töltött paprika? A food that you may already be familiar with – stuffed peppers themselves, but with extra paprika inside.
Hungarian paprika is often made in the southern cities of Kalocsa and Szeged, but it can be found in shops and markets all over Hungary. If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus himself and bring back a gift of spices from your travels, the best place to pick some up in Budapest is the Central Market (Központi Vásárcsarnok). This is the oldest market in the whole of Budapest and it’s also the perfect place to find small souvenirs.