To Gulyás or not to Goulash’
While writing the preamble to my Hungarian Pork Gulyás Soup recipe in our ever popular Hungarian Cookbook – called; Helen’s Hungarian Heritage Recipes, I realized that the very name GOULASH conjures up all kinds of ideas, memories, cooking vessels, ingredients – maybe even the kitchen sink. (one can never be too sure)
So – after a long discussion with my 83 year Hungarian Mother, we decided to be a bit more explicit in our description so as to not only to entertain and entice cooks, but to inform and educate chefs and encourage them to give this classic Hungarian Dish an honest school try.
Here it is in all it’s paprikás glory!
Goulash Soup (Gulyás) is a classic and traditional Hungarian soup. It is one of the five most popular meat dishes on the North American cooking scene. Although goulash/gulyás turns up on many German and Austrian menus and cookbooks, gulyás actually originated in Hungary and later spread beyond its borders, first to the Austrian Empire, Germany, and the Balkans, and finally around the world!
Hungarian gulyás traces its roots back to nomadic Magyar herdsmen in the ninth century. Shepherds cut meat into cubes and slowly stewed them in a heavy iron kettle over an open fire until the liquid evaporated. The meat was then spread out dry in the sun; an early convenience food; became totally portable as they followed their flocks across the vast expanse of Hungary’s Great Plain. Water reconstituted the meat and by heating and adding some vegetables in a pot over a fire: the stew was ready. The consistency depended on the amount of liquid added. If more, the dish was called gulyás soup; if less, it was simply goulash/gulyás meat. In both cases it was eaten with spoons dipped into the communal cooking pot.
Hungarian Gulyas, as we know it today, did not develop until the beginning of the 19thC with the widespread cultivation of peppers in Hungary and the use of paprika as a popular spice. Originally it was considered peasant food, eaten primarily by country folk, farmers, shepherds, cowboys, and swineherds. With the rise of Hungarian nationalism in the second half of the 19thC, paprika-seasoned gulyás moved from the campsites and farmhouses to the tables of middle-class and wealthy city dwellers, to the menus of fashionable restaurants, and eventually across the globe.
Goulash/gulyás is now the Hungarian dish most widely known abroad. However, in many parts of the world, dishes called “goulash” bear little resemblance to the gulyás that originated in Hungary and is eaten there today. In Hungary, gulyás is a meat dish halfway between a soup and a stew, made with small cubes of meat (usually beef), no more than 3/4-inch in size, and flavoured with bacon or lard, onions, and paprika. Gulyás is traditionally served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.
Put a little Paprika in your Life