This traditional Hungarian dish found international fame when the renowned French master Escoffier put it on the menu at Monte Carlo’s Grand Hotel in 1879 but its origins go back much further. In the 16th and 17th centuries, modern Hungary was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. When the Ottomans ultimately withdrew, they left behind them an enduring love for one of the spices their armies brought from Turkey: paprika.
More than 300 years later, in a sleepy town called Kalocsa that was once ruled by the Ottomans, you’ll find the Hungarian Paprika Museum. It is one of at least two Hungarian museums (there’s another in the city of Szeged) devoted to this brick-red spice—a measure of just how seriously this Eastern European nation takes paprika. Called “red gold”, it is stocked—often in several varieties—in large quantities in every Hungarian home kitchen.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Chicken Paprikash—Paprikás Csirke in its native language—is also taken seriously. Happily, it is easy to make—you can do it all in the Thermomix or, if you wish, take the optional extra step of briefly browning the chicken pieces in a pan before you fire up the four blades.
If you want this recipe to taste as it would in a true Hungarian household, consider investing in a fresh jar or packet of paprika. As The New York Times food writer Sam Sifton has noted, paprika fades faster than most dried spices: it “starts out tasting of pepper and sunshine but deteriorates in but a few months to sawdust and bitterness”.
The dish will be gluten free if you make sure to use maize cornflour (rather than wheaten cornflour). If gluten is not an issue, buttered egg noodles make a delicious alternative to rice as an accompaniment.