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Other Names: Paprika: Boia de ardei (Romanian); deghi mirch (Hindi); édes paprika, fıszerpaprika, or piros paprika (Hungarian); fulful halou (Arabic); paprica (Italian); paprika de Hongrie or piment doux d’Espagne (French); papryka (Polish); perets krasnyj (Russian); pimentão doce (Portuguese); pimento (Spanish); piperia (Greek); tian jiao (Mandarin); tihm jiu (Cantonese); yafranj karya (Amharic). Espelette pepper: Ezpeletako bipera (Basque); piment d’Espelette (French).

General Description: Paprika, the name for a wide range of aromatic powdered red peppers from various strains of Capsicum annuum, ranges in flavor from sweet to hot, depending on the variety of pepper and whether the hotter seeds and spongy tissue (or placenta) were included. Paprika is equally valued for its taste and its bright red color, derived from capsanthin. Although all Capsicum species originated in the New World, the particular varieties used to make paprika were developed in Europe, especially Hungary. The national spice of Hungary, paprika comes in grades ranging from sweet and mild to quite hot. The Hungarian “national dish” is gulyás (goulash), a thick and spicy soup well seasoned with paprika, made from beef, vegetables, and tarhonya, a special pasta. Sweet Spanish paprika from Murcia is made from small, round, intensely flavored and sweet-fleshed ñora peppers that are sun-dried and hand ground; the smoked paprika powder called pimentón also hails from Spain.

Espelette pepper, France’s only native pepper, comes from the Basque region. The peppers are hand harvested, hand sorted, dried on the sunny side of the houses, and then oven-dried and crushed hot.

Purchase and Avoid: The highest grade of Hungarian paprika, különleges, (exquisitely delicate) consists of only the flesh of fully ripe, flawless peppers and has a mild, delicate flavor, brilliant red color, and silky texture. Édesnemes (noble-sweet), the most widely exported grade, has subtle pungency and bright red color. Rosza (rose) is less colorful and has more heat because it’s ground with some seeds. Spanish pimentón is sold in three forms: dulce (sweet and mild), agridulce (bittersweet), and picante (hot). French espelette peppers can be purchased in paste or puree form to flavor sauces; in powder form to sprinkle on foods before serving; as a mild cream to use instead of mayonnaise; and in brine to serve as a garnish.

Storage: Paprika will keep well for 2 years if stored in a cool, dark place.

Serving Suggestions: Add paprika to barbecue rubs for meat and poultry. Sprinkle paprika on fish or chicken before broiling. Season deviled eggs with paprika and sprinkle some on top for garnish. Add pimentón to Spanish rice for extra flavor.

Food Affinities: Beef, cabbage, caraway, chicken, cream, eggs, fish, garlic, goulash, onion, paella, potato, pork, rice, sausage, seafood, veal.

from Quirk Books: