Tender chicken paprikash stewed with onion, peppers, and Hungarian Paprika, served over a bed of nokedli dumplings.
I love a thick hearty gulyás or a link of kolbász with székelykáposzta and have at times wondered if I may have been Hungarian in a past life. Or perhaps it’s just the convivial familiarity stemming from linguistic similarities with my mother tongue.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what Japanese and Hungarian could possibly share in common, allow me to elaborate. Japanese is an Altaic language along with Korean and Turkish. Hungarian is a Uralic language along with Finnish. Some linguists noted similarities between the two families and lumped them together as a Ural-Altaic family of languages. This hints at the possibility that Hungarians and Japanese may have had common ancestors that spoke the same proto-language back in the day.
Given the spread of East Asians through the region first by Huns and then by Mongols, the language similarities aren’t so surprising. While Japan was never technically conquered by the Mongols, there’s certainly some shared lineage if you go back far enough (I’ve even been mistaken for Mongolian on more than one occasion).
So with distant ancestral heritage established, I give you Paprikás Csirke (chicken paprikash) with Nokedli. It’s a great simple weeknight meal that only takes about an hour to prepare and rewards the palette with fall-off-the-bone chicken smothered in a rich onion pepper sauce. Because the paprika plays such a central role in the flavour of this dish, make sure you use real Hungarian sweet paprika.
To get the most flavour into this dish in a short amount of time, I did a couple of things. First, the skin-on chicken thighs are browned in a pan without a non-stick coating, this forms a thick layer of brown fond on the bottom of the pan. Think of the crusty brown “fond” as pure umami-laden chicken flavor. Then a lot of onions and bell pepper are added to the pot to release the fond from the pan, and add their own aromatic flavours. By cooking them until they are soft, it changes the flavour of the onions through a Maillard reaction, adding more depth and sweetness to the dish.
The paprika goes in for a quick fry to release the fragrant oils and then the chicken is added back with just a small amount of stock to bring it all together. The chicken and onions will release more moisture as they cook, so there’s no need to add a ton of liquid. This also helps make the sauce taste like it’s been cooking for hours since the flavours are much more concentrated. At the very end, a bit of yogurt and flour are mixed in to add some creaminess and body (sour cream is more authentic, but yogurt is what I had on hand). When adding the yogurt, it’s important to temper it first by adding increasing quantities of hot liquid to the yogurt, rather than dumping cold yogurt straight into a hot pot (a guaranteed way of making it curdle).
I like to serve this with Nokedli which is a Hungarian dumpling that’s very similar to the German Spätzle. While it’s traditionally made by hand shaping each piece, I’m not up for that kind of commitment, so I run the soft dough through a potato ricer, which extrudes perfectly rustic looking dumplings that could almost pass for Gemelli. A few squirts of dough into the boiling water and you’ll have enough Nokedli to feed 2 people in less time that it took you to read this paragraph.
The dumplings are a golden eggy yellow, with a dense chewy texture that compliments this dish perfectly. They’re also fantastic just tossed in butter with a little salt, pepper and cheese.
2-3 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 large onions chopped
1 green bell pepper or 2 Anaheim peppers chopped
1/4 C paprika
1 C chicken stock
1/2 C plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1 Tbs flour
1 C flour
2 large eggs
2-4 Tbs plain yogurt
Heat a heavy bottomed pot until very hot. Add a splash of oil then add the chicken, skin side down. Fry undisturbed until it is well browned then flip and brown the other side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and add the onions and bell peppers. Fry until soft scrapping up the browned bits of fond from the chicken.
Add the paprika and continue frying for 2 minutes or until the paprika is very fragrant. Add the chicken stock and return the chicken to the pot, pushing them to the bottom of the pot. Turn down heat to medium low and simmer covered until the chicken is very tender and falls off the bone when prodded with a fork.
To make the nokedli, put the flour in a bowl and add the eggs, one at a time mixing to combine. Add the yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is very wet and soft (about the texture of soft mochi), but not runny. Let the dough rest while the chicken cooks.
When the chicken is almost done, boil a large pot full of salted water. The easiest way to make the dumplings is to use a potato ricer fitted with a plate that has big holes spaced far apart. Just load the dough and extrude little blobs into the boiling water. If you don’t have a ricer, you can do this with a spoon as well, flicking small bits of dough off the side of the spoon. They are done when they float to the top. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl containing some butter or olive oil tossing after each addition and covering with foil to keep warm.
Mix 1/2 C plain yogurt with the flour. Add a few spoonfuls of the braising liquid in the pot to the yogurt mixture and combine. Continue adding liquid from the pot to the yogurt and mixing until the yogurt mixture is warm. This tempers the yogurt preventing it from curdling. It also adds more liquid to the flour preventing it from forming lumps. Pour it all back into the pot and stir to combine. When the sauce thickens it is ready to serve.