The word tokány comes from the Rumanian tocana, meaning ragout. The Hungarians in Transylvania developed the ragout into an interesting formula with many variations.
The meat is cut into pieces
At first paprika was never used for this ragout; in the past 75 years this spice has been added to tokány also, but in much smaller amounts than for pörkölt or paprikás. If it is used, it should be a very small amount.
I. Berbécstokány (mutton) Cut leg of mutton into little tokány pieces and sear in a little lard. Then sprinkle with plenty of black pepper and cook, covered, over low heat till the meat is almost soft. If the mutton is old, a little water will have to be added. Measure onions equal to half the weight of the meat and slice thin. In the last half hour, mix onions with meat and cook together until the stew is done.
II. For a Transylvanian version, add some summer savory and just before serving mix in cottage-fried potatoes. Sour cream is optional.
III. Mushroom and beef tokány is made with summer savory and red wine.
IV. Gambrinus tokány is a basic tokány with beer added.
V. Debrecen beef tokány has onion and garlic fried with smoked bacon pieces. It is cooked with lecsó plus Debrecen sausage.
VI. Another category is the sour-cream tokány. Perhaps the most famous are the herány and the hétvezér (seven chieftains), which is made with beef, veal, pork, fried onions or smoked bacon, lecsó and sour cream.
VII. One of the most interesting versions of tokány is the ancient dish of sour vetrece (savanyú vetrece), which was already mentioned as a part of the dinners of King
The variations of tokány are limitless. In Transylvania they serve a dill tokány with sour cream, accompanied by puliszka; in the Kunság region there is an interesting mutton version cooked with beans, bacon and tomato; and one of the most delicious is the suckling-pig tokány with tarhonya from the Great Plains.
Tokány sauce should have the thickness of a ragout, somewhat thicker than the sauce of pörkölt or gulyás, but not as heavy as a cream sauce, and it should not be thickened with flour. Remember that there are definite rules, but there is no single “holy authority.”
© 1982 George Lang estate. All rights reserved.