Though it started in Hungary, and Hungarians like to claim ownership and denounce any version different from theirs, it became a dish bigger than them, a dish of the Empire in which they were partners, Variations emerged in different parts of the empire. All variations have in common water, paprika, onions, meat and other vegetables. Many assert that the epitome of goulash was reached in Vienna, where it has become an art form with variations even named after poets and royalty.
When people say Hungarian Goulash, what they are actually thinking of is usually the Hungarian stews of Pörkölt or Paprikash.
The Hungarian version of Goulash is actually a thick soup but not a stew. It is called “Gulyás leves”, meaning “the soup of the cowboy.” The broth is a relatively clear red that comes from paprika in the recipe. Though traditional now, paprika is of course a “late addition” to Hungarian Goulash, only happening in the 1700s or so (Paprika being of course a New World food.)
The recipes use about 9 to 12 cups (3 ½ to 5 pints / 2 to 3 litres) of water per 2 ½ pounds (1 kg) of meat. The meat is always beef.
The base is onions sautéed in pork lard until they are translucent (don’t let them brown.) Then, sweet paprika is added, cooked for a few seconds to bring out its flavour but not so long as it turn it bitter, then the remaining ingredients added such as carrots, parsnips, celery root, potatoes, and pasta, There is no garlic, no cumin, and no caraway added.
Traditionally, it was cooked outside in a large kettle called a “bogrács.”
In Slovakia, Goulash is called “guláš.” The meat can be pork, beef or venison. It is stewed for at least two hours in water with paprika and vegetables such as onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. An onion, pepper and tomato mix for Goulash is sold in Slovakia ready-assembled in stores in jars, called “lečo.”
There are three main types in Slovakia:
- Kotlíkový guláš: made outside in a cauldron over a fire, served in a bowl with bread on the side;
- Gulášová polievka: a soup with no peppers or tomatoes in it;
- Plain guláš: thicker, served on a plate with potatoes or dumplings beside it.
Goulash is also made in Trieste, Italy, and in the Friuli-Venezia region because they were of course part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Italians add a small amount of tomato sometimes to Goulash, and often serve it with polenta.
Goulash became popular in Vienna in the 1800s. There is a “Gulaschmuseum” on Schulerstrasse in Vienna that is actually a restaurant, not a museum.
In Austria, garlic, caraway seeds, and tomatoes are used. There are many versions. In some of the various types, such as veal or cabbage, sour cream may be stirred in at the end of cooking.
Goulash in Austria is served with dumplings, noodles, potatoes, rice or spaetzle noodles or bread, with bread being the most common. It is acceptable to break the bread up and put it in the Goulash. It is accompanied by a mug of beer.
Whatever the kind of meat used — beef, veal, lamb, mutton or horse — what they have in common is that stewing-type cuts are used.
|Biergulasch||Beer Goulash||As for Rindsgulasch (see below), but beer is added instead of water or stock.|
|Debrecziner Gulasch||Debreczin Goulash||Rindsgulasch (see below) with slices or cubes of Debrecziner sausage instead of the beef.|
|Erdäpfelgulasch||Sausage and onion are fried until the onion is golden brown (in Austria, the sausage often used is “Braunschweiger.”) Paprika is added, with salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar. Chopped potatoes are then added, with enough broth or water added to cover everything, then it is cooked until the potatoes are soft.|
|Esterhazygulasch||Esterhazy Goulash||Rindsgulasch (see below) with the addition of julienned carrots, turnip and celery root, and garnished with sour cream and capers.|
|Fiakergulasch||Fiaker (cab) goulash||Beef Goulash with sausage, fried egg, pickle and bread dumplings. Made from beef lower leg, called “Wadschinken” in Austrian. Fiakergulasch takes its name from the Viennese word for “cabs”, “Fiaker”, which in turn is derived from the Auberge Saint Fiacre in Paris, where cabs for hire used to line up (the inn took its name from a painting of the Irish monk, St Fiacrius, that it had in its entryway.)|
|Fisolengulasch||Green Bean Goulash||Green beans, onion, ground beef, garlic, tomato paste, marjoram, salt, pepper, sweet pepper, sour cream. An equal weight of green beans and ground meat is used. Onion is cooked in a pot, minced meat added and cooked through, along with garlic, tomato paste, paprika, herbs and some water. Green beans (already cooked through boiling in a separate pot) are added, let cook a bit, then a bit of cream is added, and heated through and served.|
|Frühstücksgulasch||Breakfast Goulash||“Frühstücksgulasch” means “breakfast Goulash”, but that is a bit misleading — a roll with butter counts as a hearty breakfast first thing in the morning in Vienna. Goulash, instead is served for Gabelfrühstück — literally “fork breakfast”, but meaning “mid-morning breakfast.” It’s served in a small portion, often with an accompanying small portion of beer. Served particularly in coffee houses.|
|Gulaschsuppe||Goulasch Soup||Runnier, more soup like, served on New Year’s Eve.|
|Hammelgulasch||Mutton Goulash||Many versions. Some include a small amount of pork or pepperoni as well. Some add red wine.|
|Kalbsgulasch||Veal Goulash||Veal, with some fatback (Speck.) Sour cream is added at the end of cooking. Served with bread dumplings.|
|Kesselgulasch||Kettle Goulash||Beef is cut into small pieces and browned in pork fat. It is then salted, and has added to it diced onion, caraway, diced garlic and paprika powder. It is sautéed a bit, then water is added to cover. Shortly before the meat is cooked, chopped red potatoes, red peppers, and tomatoes are added. Near the very end, a dough is made from just egg and flour, and small pieces are torn off and tossed into the soup to cook.|
|Lammgulasch||Lamb Goulash||As for Hammelgulasch.|
|Pferdegulasch||Horse Goulash||Made with neck or shoulder meat.|
|Rindsgulasch (Rindergulasch)||Beef Goulash||Aka Saftgulasch. Considered the original Goulash in Vienna. Made from beef lower leg, called “Wadschinken” in Austrian.)
Shin meat is diced, dusted with flour and browned in fat or butter. The same weight of onion is diced and browned separately, then meat and onion are mixed together with sweet and hot paprika, salt, pepper, caraway, marjoram and garlic. The mixture is allowed to braise in the juices that the meat gives off (the shin meat will give off a lot of juices and gel) with no water added for several hours until the meat is cooked and the onions have “melted.” At this point, there will be a dark sauce in the pan. Now liquid is added — beef stock, red wine, and / or water plus a piece of rye bread broken up to bind it all. It is served with dark bread.
|Schweinsgulasch||Pork Goulash||Pork shoulder, pepperoni, caraway, potato, tomatoes.|
|Szegediner Gulasch||Székely Goulash||Beef or pork, caraway, shredded cabbage or sauerkraut and green peppers, splash of vinegar, often with sour cream on top or stirred in at the end of cooking. Served with potatoes or white bread on the side. Cabbage equal to half the weight of the meat is used. The name should actually be “Székelygulasch”, as it’s “Székely gulyás” in Hungarian, named after the Hungarian poet József Székely (1825-1895.)|
|Zigeunergulasch||Gypsy Goulash||Made in the same manner as Rindsgulasch, but with pork and lamb added, and when the stock is added, tomatoes, potatoes and green pepper are added at the same time.|
Literature & Lore
“A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.” — Martin H. Fischer (American scientist. 1879 – 1962.)
In Hungarian, Goulash is “gulyás leves.” “Gulyás” means “cattleman”; “leves” means “soup.”
“Goulash Communism” was a phrase that meant a bit more slack in Communist doctrine was tolerated. It was applied to Hungary with whom the Soviets were a bit more lenient, because they’d already rebelled once (1956.)