Goulash - the Hungarian National Dish, and its Cousins Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Goulash - the Hungarian National Dish, and its Cousins

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Austrian Beef Goulash with a Bread Roll

Goulash was originally a meal that was made by the Hungarian cattle herders. The Hungarian word 'gulya' means 'herd of cattle' and 'gulyás' is the herdsman. It was prepared in a large pot hanging over a campfire on the wide steppes of the Puszta. In its original form it was a soup rather than a stew, using meat of any available kind. It was seasoned with lots of paprika spice, which became popular in Hungary in the 18th Century as a cheap substitute for black pepper.

The stew-like dishes generally associated with the name Goulash in other countries around the world are called 'Pörkölt' in Hungary. A Pörkölt can include various vegetables, it has a thicker consistency than Gulyás, and is usually made with either beef or pork. The misconception of Goulash being a stew instead of a soup is due to the Austrians, who basically cooked Pörkölt, named it Goulash and spread it all over the world. Another quite similar dish is Paprikás, which in addition to other ingredients contains sour cream.

Together Guylás, Pörkölt and Paprikás are the most important dishes of Hungarian cuisine. Gulyás made its way from being a peasant food to being served in the restaurants of Budapest in the early 19th Century and soon Pörkölt and Paprikás were also established on the menu of the middle class. They shaped part of the Hungarian identity while the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. All three dishes contain meat, onions and paprika spice as their most important ingredients.

Goulash is easy to make and as the amounts of each ingredient can be almost indefinitely multiplied it can feed a large number of people - or even a whole army. The so-called 'goulash cannon' - a mobile stove for the battlefield with integrated pot - is a proof of the success of this dish. Goulash has been known as army food since the 18th Century.

The meat used for making Goulash is generally not expensive. In the case of beef it is usually from the hind legs, which have some fat and also sinews which are supposed to get soft during the long cooking time. You can cook Goulash in an ordinary pot, a pressure cooker or a slow cooker.

Gulyás

Ingredients

Heat the oil in a large pot, then roast the onions until they are slightly golden. Add the meat and fry until it is not pink any more. Add the paprika, stir, then add a glug of vinegar. Leave in the pot until the meat is tender, then add the potatoes, spices, garlic and tomato paste. Pour about 1 litre of water over all the ingredients, then boil until the potatoes are done (that should take about half an hour).

Gulyas is a dish which can easily be made in large quantities for many people. It can be prepared in advance and heated up later - which makes it even better. To make it even more authentic, use a large pot on an open fire in your garden (or cook it on a stove and warm it up above the fire later). Serve with rye bread.

Viennese Beef Goulash

Ingredients

  • 500g beef, cut into cubes
  • 2-3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • optional: bay leaf
  • flour
  • butter
  • salt, pepper

Melt some butter in a large pot, then add the onions. Let them get glassy, then add the meat and fry it until it is not pink any more. Add all the spices and the garlic. Add about 1 litre of water (add more, or less, depending on how many people you want to feed), cover the pot with a lid and let it stew until the meat is tender. This can take 2 hours or more, but only about 30 minutes if you use a pressure cooker. Stir in some flour to make the Goulash thicker.

Serve with bread rolls, rye bread, Spätzle, pasta, Butternockerl or bread roll dumplings.

In Austria the stock of the Goulash is sometimes served with fried Frankfurter sausages1, fried eggs and pickled gherkins. This dish is called 'Herrengulasch' or 'Fiakergulasch' and is served in many traditional restaurants in Vienna.

Paprikás with Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, divided into legs and wings with breasts (or just legs or breasts) with skin
  • 2 bell peppers, washed and sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • 250ml sour cream
  • flour
  • vegetable oil
  • marjoram
  • salt, pepper

Season the chicken parts with salt and pepper, then roast them on all sides in a pan with oil. Take them out and use the same pan to roast the bell peppers, oions and garlic until they are soft. Add the tomato paste, paprika and other spices. Then pour in 1 litre of water and let it boil up. Add the chicken again and let it simmer with a closed lid for about 45 minutes. Then stir in some flour and the sour cream. If you like you can take out the meat again and puree the sauce with a blender.

Serve with Spätzle (or Hungarian Tarhonya), Butternockerl or pasta and some sour cream.

Potato Goulash

Ingredients

  • 800g potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 sausages2, sliced
  • 2-3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • sour cream
  • flour
  • butter
  • salt, pepper

Melt some butter in a large pot, then add the onions. Let them get golden, then add the potatoes. Add all the spices and the garlic. Pour in about 1 litre of water and cover the pot with a lid. Let it stew until the potatoes are done. Put the sausages in shortly before the Goulash is done and let them get hot. Stir in some flour to make the Goulash thicker and add a few spoons of sour cream.

If you like you can use fewer potatoes and instead add green beans together with the sausages. This way you can turn your potato goulash into a green bean goulash.

Serve with rye bread or bread rolls.

Székely Gulyás

Ingredients

  • 500g pork, cut in cubes
  • 500g sauerkraut
  • 2-3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • 125ml sour cream
  • flour
  • butter
  • salt, pepper

Melt some butter in a large pot, then add the onions. Let them get glassy, then add the meat and fry it until it is not pink any more. Put in all the spices and the garlic, then pour in about ½ litre of water. Add the sauerkaut and cover the pot with a lid. Let it stew until the meat is tender. Stir in some flour to make the Goulash thicker, then add the sour cream.

Serve with boiled, salted potatoes and sour cream.

As Székely Gulyás is a stew not a soup, and also includes a decent amount of sour cream, you could probably argue that it is not Gulyás at all but rather a Paprikás.

1The Austrian 'Frankfurter' sausage is the same as the one known as 'Wiener' in Germany. It is made from beef and pork meat and usually boiled before being served. It is very similar to a typical hot dog sausage.2The kind of sausage you use depends on your own taste. It can be anything like Wieners, but more spicy sausages also work well.

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