On our first day in Budapest with Viking River Cruises, we were able to break free and shop on our own for a few hours. We found several items of note. The first and foremost retail philosophy was that all shopkeepers in Hungary have to deal in authentic merchandise, actually made in Hungary, contrary to other countries. In a great deal of places just when you think it was made in the city or country you are in, you turn it over and there is that huge sticker indicating it was made in China, Pakistan or who knows where. I have to admit it was refreshing.
There is a strict motivation to only display and sell authentic merchandise. If the authorities discover you are trying to pass items as “Made in Hungary” and they are actually from somewhere else the shopkeeper could lose their license and have to close their shop. That’s quite an incentative to not misrepresent products. I questioned an embroidery blouse and Kim assured me it was handmade by the seams and stitching. She sews and has for a long time so I am sure she was correct. One of the shops had several snack items and this 4 foot display of Paprika.
Paprika is a ground spice made from red air-dried fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper, sometimes with the addition of more aromatic or fiery types, namely Chili and Cayenne peppers. Although paprika is often linked to Hungarian foods, it originated in central Mexico and was brought to Spain in the 16th century. It came to Hungary under the Ottoman rule, but didn’t become popular in Hungary until the 19th century. Paprika can range in flavor from extremely hot to almost bland in taste.
Sweet paprika, the more common spice has more than half the seeds removed and hot paprika has seeds, stalks, sheath and husks all ground together. The Hungarian plant was brought by the Turks to Buda, now half Budapest the Capitol of Hungary, in 1529. The Central European paprika was hot until the 1920’s when a German breeder discovered a sweet fruit which he grafted to the other plants and developed the current paprika.
Hungary is a primary source for of common paprika these days but comes in various grades:
- Noble sweet paprika – slightly pungent, bright red color, most commonly exported paprika
- Special quality paprika – the mildest, a very deep bright red color
- Delicate paprika – a mild paprika with a rich flavor, light red to dark red
- Exquisite delicate paprika – similar to “Delicate”, but more pungent
- Pungent exquisite delicate paprika – an even more pungent version of delicate
- Rose paprika – with a strong aroma and mild pungency, pale red color
- Half-sweet paprika – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
- Strong paprika – the hottest paprika, light brown color
Who knew their were so many types of paprika or that there was such a history and assortment of colors and flavors!
***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.