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Aaaah… paprika!

Paprika is produced by grinding the dried deep red paprika pods of the pepper plant. Not all paprika is created equal. The best paprika in the world is Hungarian Paprika. Most Hungarian paprika is produced in Szeged or in Kalocsa. My grandmother preferred “Szegedi Paprika”, but then she was born and raised in Szeged.

In Hungary you can find 8 brands of Hungarian paprika in varying colour and pungency:

KÜLÖNLEGES (Special quality) - this is the mildest has the most vibrant red colour.
CSÍPŐSMENTES CSEMEGE (Delicate) – is a mild paprika with rich flavour.
CSEMEGE (Exquisite delicate) – is slightly more pungent than the Delicate.
CSÍPŐS CSEMEGE DELICATE (Pungent Exquisite) is even more pungent.
ÉDESNEMES (Noble sweet) – is the most common type, slightly pungent with bright red colour.
FÉLÉDES (Half-sweet) – is a medium-pungent paprika.
RÓZSA (Rose) – is light red in colour and mildly pungent.
ERŐS (Hot) – is the hottest and has light brown-orange colour.

But all of this is irrelevant for us here in North America. What we can get here is sweet or hot. And we are lucky to have ANY grade as long as it was produced in Hungary. If it’s not imported, it’s not Hungarian, even if the label says so. If it doesn’t say “product of Hungary” forget it. If it was packed somewhere in North America, who knows what was put in it? At best it will be a mix with some Hungarian paprika in it, but more than likely you are getting a glorified version of Spanish paprika and all that is good for is a bit of color. Don’t bother with supermarkets. They don’t have the real stuff.

Once I had a friend bring me a bag of “Hungarian Paprika” from the largest spice store in Vancouver. I took one look at it, I didn’t even have to sniff it, and I knew it wasn’t Hungarian. The intense color, flavour and aroma of real Hungarian paprika are unmistakable.

Find a small specialty store, preferably in a larger center, that handles a variety of Hungarian imports. Or do as I have done, order it on-line. Once you tried it in the small, metal container - go for the bulk. Get a ½ kg sack and store it in the freezer. Wrap it well, it will last you for a couple of years. Otherwise the shelf life of paprika is six months. It won’t go bad, but the aroma and the color will start to loose its intensity. The small tins of Hungarian paprika that sit on the shelf at the German deli, has probably passed its prime some time ago. There is simply nothing better for Hungarian cooking than authentic Hungarian Paprika.
I don't normally advertize, but I have been asked several times where I get my paprika. I order it from Otto's Hungarian Deli in California. The Szegedi and the Kalocsai are both wonderful and authentically Hungarian. Depending on what part of Hungary you come from, you might be convinced that one is better than the other. But I don't find any difference.



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