Taste Hungarian Literature: Bean Soup á la Jókai – with Recipe!
Adrienn Vass 2020.05.22.
The well-known Hungarian novelist, dramatist, and revolutionary, Mór Jókai, was also famously a great food connoisseur, as his contemporaries put this fact on paper many times. He regularly held feasts in his villa in Svábhegy on the Buda side of the capital for his friends, where his favorite food, the thick bean soup with pork shanks always played a main role.
Mór Jókai was an active participant and a leading figure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. He wrote a large number of novels, short stories, humorous prose pieces, poems, plays, and was the editor of several newspapers throughout his life. His most famous works include Egy magyar nábob (A Hungarian Nabob), Szegény gazdagok (The Poor Rich), A kőszívű ember fiai (The Heartless Mans Sons), Az arany ember (The Golden Man), A cigánybáró (The Gypsy Baron). Poet Sándor Petőfi, another great figure of the revolution, was one of Jókai’s best friends. They often exchanged letters and the poet even wrote a poem about the author. Jókai’s romantic novels became very popular among the elite of Victorian-era England and he was often compared to Dickens in the 19th century British press. Rumor had it that the British ruler, Queen Victoria herself, was among the admirers of the Hungarian novelist.
Legend has it that the novelist ate the bean soup first in a restaurant in Balatonfüred, where they made the dish with horse beans and with roux, a thickening agent for soups and sauces, and they also cooked pork shanks in it. The writer was so fond of the food that the bean soup was almost tied to his name even during his life, which is no wonder, as Jókai was the one who made the soup so popular.
At that time, around the turn of the century, the foundations of today’s traditional Hungarian gastronomy were formed, the simultaneous use of ground pepper and onion base, the roux, and stews began to conquer kitchens. Experiments with the paprika roux may have resulted in the ancestor of Jókai bean soup in the Balaton restaurant where Jókai first tasted his favorite dish, but today’s version is quite different from the original.
The reason for this was the continuation of the experiments, and the fact that the famous Hungarian restaurateur Károly Gundel described the bean soup in his recipe collection using a Hungarian roux (with garlic, onion, and paprika), and with additional noodles, vegetables, and trotter. In the recipe collection, he officially named this dish ‘Jókai bean soup,’ or ‘bean soup á la Jókai,’ and with this, today’s final version of the novelist’s beloved soup was born.
The original Bean soup á la Jókai – Károly Gundel’s recipe –
180 grams dry beans or 300 g fresh beans
1 smoked pork trotter
100 grams of carrots
80 grams of parsley root
150 grams green peppers
70 grams of tomatoes
300 grams sausage
40 grams of lard
30 grams flour
30 gram onions
5 grams of hot pepper
1.5 dl sour cream + 30 grams flour
First, the dry beans should be washed well and soaked the night before cooking. This is not necessary in the case of canned or fresh beans. Then, place the trotter in approximately 1.5 liters of water and cook it until it is smooth and butter-soft. The next day, cut the vegetables and fry them with the frozen lard on top of the cooking juice after you removed it with a fork. When it starts to turn brown, pour the beans in together with the cooking liquid, as well as the smoky juice in which the trotter was cooked.
Add the bay leaf, a pinch of crushed garlic, diced green peppers and tomatoes, and a little salt. Meanwhile, fry the sausage, remove it from its fat and cut into thin rings. Once the beans have softened, make a light roux from the sausage fat and flour with chopped onions, then sprinkle it at the last minute with paprika and parsley greens. Add the roux to the soup, and when it is boiling, thicken it with the sour cream. Then cook the noodles into it and add the sausage rings as well.
Before serving, cut the pork into small pieces, and pour the hot soup on it. You can flavor it with vinegar and tarragon as well. To compensate for the sour taste, very little powdered sugar can also be considered for the harmony of the final flavor.