Csikós Tokány

Tokány is a stew dish similar to the goulash and the paprikash, but usually prepared with less paprika than those two. Historically, tokány was common in Transylvania and the name itself comes from the Romanian word for ragout. You can recognize a tokány by the thin, elongated shape of the meat pieces. Smoked szalonna and sour cream give a distinct taste to the csikós tokány, which can be made with any meat you like.

Ingredients

Yield: 4-5 servings; Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

  • 800 grams (1 ¾ pounds) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) by 3 ½ cm (1 ½ inches) elongated pieces

  • 200 grams (½ pound) smoked pork belly or fatback, cut into small cubes, about 1 cm (½-inch) long. Remove skin.

  • 350 grams (1 ¾ cups) long-grain rice, rinsed

  • 1 large onion, peeled and minced

  • 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

  • ½ tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika

  • 3 pinches ground pepper

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1 ripe medium tomato, peeled and cut into very small pieces (or puréed into smooth paste using an immersion blender)

  • 1 Hungarian wax pepper or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into very small pieces (or puréed into smooth paste using an immersion blender)

  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

  • 250 grams (1 cup) sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon flour

Directions

  • Step 1: Add the bits of pork belly or fatback into a large pot or Dutch oven and render the fat on medium heat until meat turns golden-brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes. When ready, remove the meat pieces with a slotted spoon and put aside in a small bowl. Keep the rendered fat in the skillet.

  • Step 2: Add minced onion into the pot and sauté in the hot fat until translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

  • Step 3: Add meat and sear until it’s lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.

  • Step 4: Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in paprika, minced garlic, the small bits of tomato and yellow pepper, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Add ½ cup water, place lid on pot, and let it steam-cook until pork is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  • Step 5: While meat is cooking, prepare the rice. Rinse the rice in cold running water then drain well. Add rice to a small pot and cover with 2 ½ cups of cold salted water. With the lid on, bring water to a boil, then turn heat to very low and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until rice is soft but not mushy. Then turn off heat, remove lid, and let rice cool for 15 minutes.

  • Step 6: Finish the sauce for the meat. In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream and flour.

  • Step 7: Turn off the heat and add the sour cream mixture to the pot with the tokány and stir well. Turn heat to medium-high and let the sauce thicken into a creamy consistency at a low simmer for 1-2 minutes.

  • Step 8: Taste the sauce for salt and pepper and add more if needed. Serve the csikós tokány and the rice side by side on a dinner plate and drizzle the crispy pork belly pieces and chopped parsley on top.

Words of advice

(i) It's easy to oversalt this dish: the szalonna is already salty so you may need to add only a little. (ii) Popular side dishes include nokedli (see the paprikash for recipe), rice, and noodles.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day. Do you have any feedback? Please let me know!