Hungarian fisherman’s soup

by | Sep 8, 2015 | Soups

Unfortunately, we Hungarians are not a fish eating nation, the annual fish consumption is insignificant, only the fish sales during the Christmas season can improve the statistics. Though we don’t have seashore, Hungary is rich of lakes and rivers; therefore, a wide range of fresh water fish is available. If Hungarians bring themselves to eat fish, they choose fisherman’s soup or fried fish.

Fisherman’s soup (or halászlé) is prepared with carp or mixed fresh water fish, and with generous amounts of paprika (both sweet and hot). Among Hungarian dishes, halászlé is arguably is one of the hottest, if not the hottest. The homeland of fisherman’s soup is the Danube and Tisza river regions. There are several halászlé variations, but the 2 main rivals are the recipes from Szeged and Baja. Fisherman’s soup a la Szeged is made of four different kinds of fish and generally passed through a sieve. Fisherman’s soup a la Baja is made of different kinds of fish, approximately 75% is carp. It’s served with homemade soup pasta called gyufatészta (match noodles).

There are debates to the knife if fish stock should be passed through a sieve or not. This process is a native of the modern age, it was devised by the restaurants, fishermen didn’t waste time with trifles. They made it as simple as possible, the “right” ratio of spices was much more important. Many dedicated fishermen, therefore, regarded their recipe as top secret.

My-grandfather
My grandfather on the left – photo: zserbo.com
Fisherman's soup in bogrács
Hungarian fisherman’s soup – photo: zserbo.com

Me and my family love fish, we often eat it fried or roasted, or as a soup. Our enthusiasm for fish owes to my grandfather, who worked as a fisherman for nearly 20 years on the Körös river in the first half of the 20th century. We cook fisherman’s soup according to his recipe, which he learnt from his master, who came from Csongrád. We use different kinds of fish (carp, brown bullhead, catfish), and as opposed to the widespread practice, we slowly simmer the soup over low heat for 2 hours, so fish can release the aroma without falling to pieces. If you have a bogrács, it’s worth cooking the soup in it because smoke gives it a better taste.

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Hungarian cottage cheese

This is what Hungarian túró looks like

You often ask me what kind of cottage cheese (or curd cheese or farmer's cheese - call it what you want) I use in the recipes. In Hungary the store-bought cottage cheese is dry and crumbly as you can see in the picture. So if a recipe calls for túró, I mean this type. If you can't obtain túró, you can try to make your own from whole milk. Click on the link below.

Metric system vs cup

In Hungary metric units are in use, all the recipes on this website are based on this system, so a kitchen scale is necessary. Since I’m not familiar with cup as a measurement unit, I convert grams to cups by using an online converter. The values in brackets, therefore, are only approximate volumes, so, please, double-check them before you start cooking.

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