The classic Hungarian dish was created in the early 19th century, but it is neither Székely nor goulash.
The dish was inspired by József Székely, the chief archivist of the county, and named by Sándor Petőfi himself. Once, when both of them were having lunch in the Komló Garden (where they were regular guests) in the Gránátos Street (now Városház Street) next to the Castle County House, the kitchen was running out of food and the selection was poor. Therefore, József Székely, with a queasy stomach, asked the barman to mix the leftover pork stew with the leftover sauerkraut stew; it would be good enough for him to avoid starvation.
FactSándor Petőfi, Hungary’s national poet and liberal revolutionary, was born on January 1, 1823. He is considered one of the key figures of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The 19th-century freedom fighter is the author of the “Nemzeti dal“ (“National Song”), which is said to have inspired the revolution that grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire. Despite several rumors, it is most likely that he died on the July 31, 1849 in the Battle of Segesvár (Sighișoara), one of the last encounters of the war, which Hungary eventually lost against Habsburg-ally Russia’s army.
The bold idea resulted in a deliciously succulent lunch, which Székely, not sparing with praise, consumed it with great enjoyment. Petőfi witnessed the improvised culinary feat and the next day ordered the same dish, now called ‘Székely cabbage.’ Nevertheless, even at the beginning of the century, Székely goulash was not made by combining the two dishes, but in its present form, it is most similar to stuffed cabbage (without the stuffing), with diced meat.
- 500 g pork (say pork shoulder or pork leg)
- 1 head of onion
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 700-800 g sauerkraut
- 2 tbsp oil or lard
- 1 tsp red pepper
- half tsp ground cumin seeds
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2 dl sour cream
- 3-4 tbsp flour
- fresh parsley
- 40 g smoked bacon
- 4 tbsp stock (this may be added to taste)
Wash the meat and chop it into cubes. Peel and dice the onion and garlic. Rinse the sauerkraut slightly and drain.
Heat the oil/fat, fry the onion, add the meat, and brown for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper, and cumin, and add the crushed garlic.
Add the sauerkraut to the meat and add a little water. It does not need to be completely covered. You can add the bay leaves and simmer until tender.
Thicken with a cream and flour mousse, garnish with parsley and serve with white bread.
If you use bacon, cut it into small cubes and fry it first.
If you add a lecsó base, you can add it with the cabbage.
Photos by Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today