Paprika is the favorite spice of Hungary.
Although paprika is associated with Hungarian cuisine, the peppers from which it is made are native to the New World. Paprika originated in central Mexico and was taken to Spain in the 16th century.
The trade in paprika expanded to Africa and Asia and ultimately reached central Europe. Paprika did not become popular in Hungary until the late 18th century.
The Turks introduced the pepper plant to Hungary during their rule in the 16th and 17th centuries. The spice was used first by shepherds, then peasants and last by aristocrats. It eventually became a dominant spice in Hungarian kitchens and restaurants.
Kalocsa and Szeged in southern Hungary are the best paprika-producing regions in Hungary. These regions have the highest number of sunny hours – the peppers need plenty of sunshine to get ripe and sweet.
In 1937, Albert Szent-Györgyi, a Hungarian scientist, was awarded the Nobel prize for the discovery of vitamin C in the paprika plant. The research took place at the University of Szeged in Hungary.
A popular dish that many local Hungarians cook using paprika is chicken paprikash – the Hungarian spelling is paprikás csirke. These recipes can be found in our newly-published cookbook on sale at the museum.
There are many degrees of pungency in the spice, ranging from hot (Eros) to mild (Kulonleges).
The best place, of course, to buy Hungarian paprika is in Hungary. It can also be found in some gourmet sections of grocery stores or ordered from Hungarian online-order stores. Several colorful paprika containers are on display in the food and kitchen exhibit cases in the museum. Paprika should be kept in a cool dark place to retain its flavor.
The museum is open Tuesday and second and fourth Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is charged.
For more information, call 225-294-5732, 225-610-7474 or 225-610-7475, or see www.hungarian museum.com.