It was February and I was only in Prague for a few days, so I'd spent the day freezing my butt off wandering around the old city taking in the sights. My ears ached with cold, my legs were wobbly with exhaustion and in a rare moment for me, fatigue reigned over hunger and I decided to head back to my hotel room.
Getting off at my metro stop near the end of the line, everything was shuttered for the evening and I was all but resigned to falling asleep with an empty stomach that night. But as I rounded the corner, I noticed a warm glow coming from some small windows on an old stone building. There was a dimly lit sign outside and the tantalizing aroma of pork was wafting my way.
It turned out to be a little tavern filled with older czech gentlemen drinking beer and eating dinner. The middle-aged waitress didn't speak a word of English, but she accommodated my pointing and gesturing with a smile, and soon I had a Pilsner Urquell and a plate of Segedínský Guláš with Knedlíky in front of me.
Ten years later, I still have fond memories of that meal and I make it every now and then when the weather cools off. It turns out the dish is actually Hungarian in origin, known as Székely Gulyás there, but it's managed to spread itself through Germany and into France, and is known as Szegediner Gulasch or Gulasch a la Szekely in those countries.
While preparations seem to vary by country, it's a pork stew that's simmered with sauerkraut until the meat literally melts in your mouth. Seasoned with sweet paprika and onions and with a mellow tang coming from the sauerkraut it's a soul-satisfying meal that will take the chill off even the coldest winter days.
While it's often served with a bread dumpling called Knedlíky in The Czech Republic, I like serving this with little Hungarian dumplings called Nokedli. For a simple fix, this is also delicious over pasta, potatoes or rice.
- Generously salt and pepper the pork. Place a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat until hot. Add a tablespoon of oil and when it starts to shimmer, add the pork in a single layer with a little space between each piece. You want to get a nice brown crust on the meat, so if it's too crowded, this won't happen. Let the meat brown on one side until it's not sticking to the pot anymore (about 5-7 minutes). When there's a nice brown crust forming flip the pork over and brown the other side. Repeat if necessary, then set the pork aside in a bowl.
- Turn down the heat to medium low, add the onions and garlic, and then cover with a lid. The onions should release moisture which will keep it from burning but check periodically to make sure. Cook with the lid until the onions are translucent and tender (about 20 minutes). Uncover and allow the accumulated moisture to burn off. Continue sautéing until the onions are about 1/4 of their initial volume, and they are a medium brown color all the way through. These browned onions along with the brown crust on the meat is where much of the flavor for this stew comes from, so while it may take a while it's important.
- Return the pork to the pot along with the peppers, tomatoes, sauerkraut and paprika. Loosely cover with a lid and braise until the pork is fall-apart tender. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- In a small bowl, mix the sour cream and flour. Add the hot stock from the pot into the sour cream mixture a spoonful at a time, mixing between each addition. This tempers the sour cream and prevents it from curdling. When the sour cream mixture is steaming hot, pour it back into the pot and stir to combine. When it starts to slightly thicken, it's done.