Real Paprika From Hungary: I Am Spoiled
T ravel can introduce you to bigger, bolder and better flavors than to what you are used in your daily routine at home — and for me, real paprika from Hungary is one of those results of travel.
Paprika has always been one of my favorite spices — even when I was a little boy. I enjoy it on such foods as deviled eggs and mashed potatoes — the latter on which I also poured heaping amounts of parsley for color and flavor if no gravy was present or available. My mother also used paprika as one of the spices cooked on broiled meats.
The Quest: Find Real Paprika From Hungary
“Whether you need to find out where to find paprika and what kind to get; or if you need to leave your bag after you check out free of charge if you have a late flight like I did, just ask them. They are more than happy to help.” I was referring to the helpful and friendly staff at the Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center; and one member of that staff advised me of where to go to purchase some real Hungarian paprika.
Nagyvásárcsarnok, Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall
After climbing to the top of Gellért Hill — I will post an article with photographs of the views from there — I literally descended down the hill and across the Danube River via the Szabadság híd or Liberty Bridge, down a couple of blocks on Vámház körút, to what is known as either Nagyvásárcsarnok, the Central Market Hall, or Great Market Hall, which was built towards the very end of the nineteenth century. At approximately 10,000 square feet and three separate floors, the market certainly had something to offer to everyone — including paprika.
The market is open every day at 6:00 in the morning — except for Sunday, when it is closed — and it closes at 5:00 in the evening every Monday; 6:00 in the evening Tuesdays through Fridays; and 3:00 in the afternoon on Saturday. On the day that I went to the market, the place was bustling; and the smells in the air were nothing less than captivating and will make anyone Hungary — er…I mean hungry.
After leisurely scouring the entire market, I wound up purchasing four varieties of paprika, as I could not decide which one I wanted: hot and smoked, smoked, hot, and sweet — as seen from left to right in the photograph shown at the top of this article. The aroma was incredibly difficult to ignore for the remainder of my unintentional trip around the world.
When I finally tried the paprika when I arrived home — I had to try all four varieties, as I simply could not help myself — the flavors packed a potent yet delightful wallop. I even liked the little wooden scoop which comes with each of the red paper bags — you can see in the photograph at the top of this article an untouched scoop still attached to the bag — and those scoops are perfectly sized to deliver the proper proportion of paprika.
To this day, I still cannot decide which flavor I like the most. Each one is a different experience, neither one better than another: the smokiness, the heat, the sweetness — each one delectable and heavenly…
…but I did learn one thing regardless of the flavor: there is no need to be liberal with the application of this paprika on any food, as I am used to taking the weak variety found in supermarkets in the United States — typically only one variety from which to choose — and just pouring it on whatever I was eating at the time.
If you are a fan of spices — especially paprika in particular — and you find yourself in Hungary, you are required to purchase some paprika and experience the amazing flavor for yourself. Yes, I said required, as you have no choice in the matter; as to not do so would be a grave disservice to yourself…
…now, if you will please excuse me, I have some deviled eggs awaiting their application of paprika; and I have to wrestle with the incredibly difficult decision as to which variety of paprika to use this time…
All photographs ©2014 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.