Szeged Fish Soup - Szegedi halászlé Recipe
Szeged Fish Soup - Szegedi halászlé
Flavors of Hungary
Total time: 1hr to 2hr
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Chef's Note

If you travel to Hungary, don’t miss trying this delicious dish – it’s worth the trip! It’s almost impossible to find a bad fish soup in Szeged, whose name is synonymous with this specialty. Most places use a generations-old recipe, and it’s accepted wisdom that the more varieties of fish go into the soup, the better it is. Traditionally, this dish was called “fish soup” only in restaurants – to the local people, it was known as “fish paprikas.” Its authentic flavor comes from using the excellent Szeged paprika for which the region is famous.

We're giving the basic recipe here, but every cook has his own little touches to make the soup unique. A bit less of this, a little more of that… But don’t bother asking: these are closely-guarded secrets! Hungarians are adamant that water not be drunk with this soup, even if it ends up being hotter than you planned. Some good local wine is the preferred accompaniment.

This is the recipe for fish soup as prepared in the Tisza region. It is made in two stages – first the basic soup is prepared, then slices of fish are added – unlike the Danube version which is made in just one step.

Even the shape of the pot is important. The traditional pot for Tisza fish soup slopes outward. Purists claim that the shape affects the direction of the steam, and makes better soup! And finally, though Danube fish soup is served with noodles, devotees of Tisza fish soup object to “spoiling” the dish with any additions.

- 500 g (18 oz.) small fish
- 1 - 1.2 kg (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lb.) Carp, or other large fish
- 1 large onion
- 1 tbsp. slightly hot Paprika
- 1/2 cherry pepper
- or 1 hot green pepper, to taste
- Salt

Step 1

  1. Clean the fish and wash it, reserving the roe and milt.
  2. Cut off the head and tail of the carp and chop the body into 5 cm (2”) pieces. Sprinkle with salt, cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Start by cooking the small fish together with the carp head and tail, the chopped onion and enough water to barely cover the fish. Boil over moderate heat for an hour, then mash the mixture through a colander.

Step 2

  1. To the previously prepared soup base, add 625 ml (2 1/2 cups) cold water, the salted slices of fish, the milt and the roe. Season with red paprika and hot pepper, if desired. Boil over moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, until the fish is cooked.

Jó étvágyat ! (Enjoy!)

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