The literal translation of this word is “singed, ” and the Hungarian word does not relate to accepted cooking terms. I suppose the closest equivalent would be “dry-stewed.” The meat for this stew should always be diced, but in somewhat larger pieces than for gulyás. Paprika, lard or bacon are mandatory.
Of course onion is required, too. The Hungarian writer Julius Krúdy, who was especially fond of pörkölt, mused: “Onion, the apple of the earth, is able to emit such scents as women meeting their lovers do. Hot bacon dripping, the lover of the onion, keeps asking sizzlingly from the top of the stove: why was I born?—The onion, then, passionately explains everything… .”
Matters of opinion: whether the onions are chopped or sliced; whether to use fresh tomatoes, tomato purée, or none; sliced green peppers or none; whether to add salt for the last 10 minutes or in the usual way; to brown the meat after the onion is golden, then add paprika and water, or to add water and meat right after onion has been sautéed and sprinkle it with paprika toward the last stages.
© 1982 George Lang estate. All rights reserved.