Harcsapaprikás – Hungarian Wels Catfish Stew – Stufato di Pesce Siluro


Here it is my first post about Hungarian recipes 🙂 and for sure others will follow.

Of course, to make this recipe I needed the help of my wife, of her grandmother and her grandmother’s old cookbooks 🙂

As you know I like to make the things as better as possible, so for this traditional recipe I tried to look carefully for information.

I took the cue from a couple of good old Hungarian cookbooks (one from 1930) and from the notes’ cookbook of my wife’s grandmother (so what she still cooks nowadays, aged 91), and those recipes matched almost perfectly.

What I noticed soon is that the old traditional recipes look more simple and less heavy than most of the “harcsapaprikás” that I see nowadays around and on the web, and that’s a good thing in my personal point of view because it seems they wanted maybe to preserve better the taste of the main ingredient (the fish) and they didn’t want to cover it too much with a lot of cream, sour cream, flour, etc.

But that’s just a supposition 🙂 in any case, I agree with that way of thinking.


Compared to those older recipes I only added a teaspoon of triple tomato concentrate (also because it’s December and I’m not gonna buy tasteless winter tomatoes), 1 bay leaf and some white wine, whose acidity I think it’s needed.

And it’s not clear to me if traditionally they used also fillets or only slices of whole fish, but I used fillets as it’s mostly used nowadays. Those books have been written in a time when who was reading them had on the average better basic cooking skills than most of people nowadays 😀 so they never explain exhaustively every single detail 🙂

Moreover, I noticed also that in older Hungarian cookbooks they mostly talk about “halpaprikás“, “hal” is the generic word for fish, because in the past they used more often also other types of fish for this recipe, as carp and sterlet for example, nowadays instead it’s more common to use just the wels catfish (called “harcsa” or “európai harcsa” in Hungarian) for this recipe so it has that more specific name.

Another thing, usually this recipe is served next to home-made “csusza” (a kind of pasta) mixed with a local quark (usually made of sheep milk, but also the one made of cow milk) and sometimes also with crunchy bacon (well, similar), or in alternative next to “galuska” (also called “nokedli”), a kind of home-made egg noodle, mixed also with the same quark or simply served with anything else on it, just the sauce of this stew. Personally I prefer galuska.

Important is the choice of the main ingredient, the wels catfish (Silurus Glanis): the best ones are the ones caught in big rivers or big lakes, where the water conditions are usually better, here in Hungary some of the best ones come from Balaton lake or also from Tisza lake, for example. The ones coming from small fishing lakes they often (but not always) taste mud/algae, and I suggest not to buy in the case you have the possibility to choose the others. A not too good taste fish will turn out into a not too good taste dish (the rhyme is just casual 😀 ).

Moreover choose a fish not bigger than 10 Kg about, the bigger ones are usually more fat and less good (“harcsa” is a big fish, it can grow over 100 kg).

Let’s see how to make it 🙂

INGREDIENTS (4 people):

For the stew:

  • 800 g of wels catfish fillet
  • 3 onions (white or golden)
  • 1 fresh green or red paprika pepper (optional, but nowadays it’s widely used, almost always)
  • 40 g of “salo“, in Hungarian “szalonna” (it’s smoked fatback, preferably just lightly smoked), or also rendered lard is ok 
  • 4 teaspoons of Hungarian sweet paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon of triple tomato concentrate (optional, in summer you can use a ripe tomato if you want)
  • 1 dl of dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional, but it fits in my opinion)
  • salt
  • sour cream, at your taste
  • parsley or chives, for decoration

For the “túrós galuska”:

  • 450 g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • a little bit of water
  • salt
  • 100-150 g of quark, made with sheep or cow milk
  • some sour cream


  1. First of all wash the fish fillets, remove the skin if they still have it and remove also every possible fat on the fish, and then chop them in cubes, about 2 cm large. And add salt on it.
  2. Now cut the “szalonna”/smoked fatback into thin slices, and hit it multiple times with the blade of a thick knife (the one to break bones is perfect) until you obtain a cream, then put it in a cocotte/casserole and melt it at medium heat.
  3. Then cut the onion into very small pieces (and also the green paprika pepper if you use it) and add to the melted fat. Cook at medium/low heat until the onion become soft and golden.
  4. Then remove from the heat and add the red sweet paprika powder, and mix fast and well.
  5. Now put back the cocotte/casserole to the heat and pour the dry white wine inside, at higher heat until the wine has reduced.
  6. Now it’s time to add the fish, and from now cook at medium/low heat, for about 15/20 minutes, covered. If you decided to use them, put the bay leaf and also the triple tomato concentrate, diluted in some hot water.
  7. If necessary add some hot water, the sauce has not to be too much thick but neither too much liquid, has to be right 🙂
  8. After that time, taste the sauce and season with salt. Then switch off the heat and let it rest few minutes before serving it.
  9. While the fish is cooking (so during the step number 6, or even before if you want to do it more quietly), prepare the “galuska”: first boil water in a pot. While the water starts to boil, put the flour, the eggs and the salt in a deep dish/bowl and mix them up, add a little bit of water and mix them until you have a soft dough. Push the dough through a galuska/nokedli maker (something like THIS) into the boiling water. Cook until the galuska rise to the surface. Then take out the galuska/nokedli  from the pot using a strainer, drain them well. Then take a baking pot, put the galuska in it and add the sheep quark cheese that you previously squeezed with a fork and mixed with a little bit of sour cream, and pour it on the galuska, mixing well all together. Then put it in the oven, at about 100 °C to melt together for a while.
  10. When the stew is ready, serve it next to the galuska, and add some freshly chopped parsley or chives to decorate 🙂 and finish with extra sour cream at your taste, personally I heated it and melted it for just a few time at low heat in a small pan and then with a spoon I added some drops around, as you see in the picture below.

PS: some people like to add fresh dill to the sour cream, in that case you don’t need to use the parsley or the chives.




Stufato di pesce siluro all’ungherese


Il siluro è un pesce che ha ormai infestato da anni molti laghi e corsi d’acqua italiani, ma ad oggi non è ancora considerato da un punto di vista commerciale in Italia.

Invece in Ungheria fa parte della cucina tradizionale da sempre, e questo può essere uno spunto per provare a cucinare un pesce che risulta ancora inusuale per molti in Italia 🙂

La ricetta non è difficile, e se si volessero sostituire i tradizionali “galuska”, ovvero quei gnocchettini di pasta in foto, si potrebbe ad esempio affiancare ad un purè di patate, a delle patate o pure alla polenta 🙂

Il siluro non deve essere troppo grosso, massimo sui 10 chili, altrimenti rischia di essere grasso e meno buono.

INGREDIENTI (4 persone):

  • 800 g di filetto di siluro
  • 3 cipolle bianche o dorate
  • 1 peperone (opzionale)
  • 40 g di lardo o strutto
  • 4 cucchiaini di paprika dolce in polvere
  • 1 cucchiaino di triplo concentrato di pomodoro (o un pomodoro maturo)
  • 1 dl di vino bianco
  • 1 foglia di alloro (opzionale)
  • sale
  • panna acida, a piacere


  1. Lavare i filetti, eliminare pelle ed ogni possibile parte di grasso, tagliarli a cubetti di circa 2 cm e salarli.
  2. Tagliare il lardo (che in Ungheria è affumicato) a fette e poi ridurlo in crema battendolo con un coltello, quindi metterlo a sciogliere in una casseruola.
  3. Tagliare le cipolle e il peperone molto sottili, quindi aggiungerli al lardo e soffriggere fino a quando la cipolla è morbida e dorata.
  4. Quando la cipolla è dorata, togliere dal fuoco e aggiungere la paprika in polvere, mescolando bene e velocemente per distribuirla ovunque.
  5. Riportare sul fuoco e sfumare con il vino bianco.
  6. Quindi aggiungere il pesce, l’alloro e il concentrato di pomodoro diluito in acqua calda e cuocere per 15/20 minuti a fuoco medio/basso, con il coperchio.
  7. Se necessario aggiungere dell’acqua calda, il sugo non deve essere nè troppo spesso nè troppo liquido.
  8. A cottura ultimata assaggiare e aggiustare di sale. Lasciate a fuoco spento e coperto per qualche minuto prima di servire.
  9. Una volta impiattato aggiungere la panna acida a piacere. La si può scaldare un attimo, oppure in Ungheria molti la mettono anche a freddo. Molti la mescolano con dell’aneto fresco.

Ci sono alcune varianti dove mettono della panna in cottura, e altre pure ulteriore panna acida sempre in cottura, ma io trovo che vadano a coprire troppo l’ingrediente principale, ovvero il pesce. Quella suggerita è una variante meglio bilanciata secondo me, e altrettanto rispettosa della tradizione ungherese.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Iwanttobeacook says:

    This sounds delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Hungary friend gave me an old Hungarian cookbook from his mom as well. It was falling apart, and I can’t recognize any word of it. But it is the coolest thing I’ve ever got as a cookbook. I noticed it was also fairly simple and has some drawings of little figures 🙂 Your stew looks delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 yes, to be honest to me older Hungarian cookbooks looks more interesting than most of the new ones 🙂 we have also a very old one from 1894, just about game and fish, and there are so many different recipes.
      Thanks again!


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