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

Updated on October 16, 2012

The Four Pillars of Hungarian Cooking

Gulyas
Gulyas
Hungarian Food
Hungarian Food
Porkolt
Porkolt
Paprikas
Paprikas
Tokany
Tokany

Hungarian Food

Cast your vote for The Four Pillars

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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

Ingredient
Goulash
Paprikash
Porkolt
Tokany
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

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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Comments

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    • profile image

      Lurraine 

      3 years ago

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

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      rjsadowski 

      6 years ago

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

    • jenniferrpovey profile image

      jenniferrpovey 

      6 years ago

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

    • rjsadowski profile imageAUTHOR

      rjsadowski 

      6 years ago

      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 profile image

      Jyoti Patil 

      6 years ago from Mumbai

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

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 

      6 years ago from South of France

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

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