Sometimes I’m good at looking up an unfamiliar word when I hear it, but other times not so much. When I heard the word “paprikash” in the scene from When Harry met Sally—you know the conversation about too much pepper in the Paprikash—I just took it as a funny conversation and just let it lie. (I know all of you When Harry met Sally fans probably caught that reference.) So when I was looking up foods from different cultures, I settled on Hungary. That’s when I ran into paprikash. I will admit, it took a minute or two to funnel through the useless trivia in my mind to remember where I first heard the word. And imagine my nerdy surprise to connect the dots after all these years.
Paprikash comes from the Hungarian word for paprika. The dish can be cooked as a stew or sauce but some of the principal ingredients include meat, onions, and sour cream. Hungarian peppers are also used, and most importantly, don’t spare the paprika. No, really! You know how you just dash it over your deviled eggs and then set in the cabinet for another few months? That’s not how they use it in Hungary. It’s their national spice and there are eight grades of Hungarian paprika.
A true Paprikash will get its red color from the abundance of fresh paprika but often times in America, tomatoes or tomato paste is used. Chicken is the most popular of the Hungarian paprikash recipes. In many cases, the chicken is quartered and served with Nokedli, which is similar to German spaetzle.
Paprikash is also served as beef, veal and vegan options as well. So whatever you do, stick with the peppery paprikash, you can partake in the pecan pie later. I had to throw in just one more When Harry Met Sally reference to justify the name of the article.
See the video below for a quick recipe for chicken paprikash from Hungarian food writer and author of the Budapest Bites, ZSofia Mautner.
Another movie reference to paprikash can be found in Captain America: Civil War. It happens when Vision makes paprikash for Wanda to lift her spirits.