Goulash is a soup or stew made with meat, (mostly beef is used, then pork) onions and the most defining ingredient; paprika.
You can also add , potatoes, root vegetables, and for seasoning sometimes
wine, bay leaf, caraway or thyme.
Where does the word Goulash come from ?
Hungry for a little Hungary?
First the Country. Many have thought the word Hungary comes from them being decendents of Huns, the most famous being the infamous Atilla. However I remember my freind of Hungarian decent telling me that her father pronounced his homeland not with any "H" sound. It sound more like OOn-gar. I did another study showing the word Hungary more realistically comes from a Turkic words meaning "10 arrows" that depict the 10 tribes of the Magyars who are the real decendents of Hungary.
The Need for Food
The word Hungry originates from a completely different word,
an Old English word hungor that has to do with pain from lack of food.
The word Goulash comes from the Hungarian word Gulyás pronounced almost the same only with no L, which is a word for a Hungarian Herdsman or Cowboy. As the herdsman would go on cattle drives they would butcher the weaker cows that may not make the drive and make a stew or soup from them.
Picture of the early Magyar people
By the way the word Hungry originates from a completely different word,
an Old English word that has to do with pain from lack of food.
The plains of Hungary was the perfect place to raise cattle
As the herdsman would go on cattle drives selling their famous Grey cattle all over Europe,
they would butcher the weaker cows that may not make the drive and make a stew or soup
in a kettle over an open fire for all the gulyas (herdsmen).
"The four pillars of Hungarian cooking are gulyas, porkolt, paprikas and tokany. Gulyas. A strange thing has happened to Hungarian gulyas. According to a 1969 Gallup Poll, gulyas is one of the five most popular meat dishes on the American cooking scene. Of course, what is usually served under this name shouldn't happen to a Rumanian. The origin of the soup...can be traced back to the ninth century--shepherds cut their meat into cubes, cooked it with onion in a heavy iron kettle (bogracs) and slowly stewed the dish until all the liquid evaporated. They dried the remnants in the sun (probably on their sheepskin capes), and then put the dried food in a bag made of the sheep's stomach.
Whenever they wanted food, they took out a piece of the fired meat, added some water and reheated it. With a lot of liquid, it became a gulyas soup...if less liquid was added, it became culyas meat...Even today this distinction exists, probably to mystify foreigners and foreign cookbook writers. The more parts of beef and beef innards are used, the better the gulyas will be. Of course, lard and bacon (either or both) are chopped onion are absolute musts...Never use any flour. Never use any other spice besides caraway. Never Frenchify it with wine. Never Germanize it with brown sauce. Never put in any other garniture besides diced potatoes or galuska. But many variations are possible-- you may use fresh tomatoes or tomato puree, garlic, sliced green peppers, hot cherry peppers to make it very spicy, and so on. An interesting technique was suttested by Mrs. Mariska Vizvary and originally published in the 1930's. She added grated raw potatos in the very beginning, presumable to give body to the soup, and she cooked bones and vegetables separately to make a strong broth with which to strengthen the gulyas soup at the very end."
--- The Cuisine of Hungary (p. 270-1)
Herdsman making Goulash.
the meal is cooked in a special pot, "bogracs", kind of cauldron often with tripod.
The herdsman called Gulyas had the best ingredients for this stew or soup at hand. Wild onions and caraway grew on the plains of Hungary as well. Cattle drives were part of their life and they went all over Europe so the dish was exposed to Germany. It wasn't till later on though that the dish became something you would serve at the dinner table and not just in the field.
In the second half of the 1800s it became very important to protect treasures of Hungarian culture, the language and the gastronomical delights as part of the movement to emphasize Hungary's national identity and independence from the Austrian Habsburg dynasty's rule.
Restaurants started to put goulash on their menus too and and by the second half of the 20th century the soup became the number one dish of Hungary that every tourist coming to the country must try.
In English gulyás became goulash and in some parts of the world stews and casseroles are called goulash too.
Here is an authentic Goulash made in the Hungarian Style
One thing I like about this is that you get to hear the sound of the word
Gulyas. In Hungarian it sounds almost like Goulash without the L.
Here is another one made by a Hungarian-Canadian
Why did Hungary embrace the paprika as their main spice.
There is a long history in all of Europe over pepper that Bonds the Americas and Europe together. Both black pepper and the paprika (red pepper)
The two most popular spices in the world are Black Pepper (Pfeffer) and Paprika which became the Hungarian word for peppers both bell pepper and the hotter chili peppers.
Germany as most of Europe loved their black pepper, that was for the most part grown in India.
In the 15th century the Ottomans from Turkey conquered most of Eastern Europe and so the trade route to India was cut off and so was their black pepper!
These are the pepper berries that grow in India
When boiled and dried they turn black.
The Spanish explorer Columbus looking for a new route mainly for pepper and ended up in Central America and found the chili pepper that tasted close to the black peppercorn, so he brought them back, but they didn't catch on food wise, only for ornamental purposes in gardens, they still favored the black peppercorn.
The Turks who traded with most of Europe found it agreeable to spice their foods with the chili peppers and took it wherever the traveled to trade or conquer.
The nearby Hungarians embraced the spice in their cooking, first they called them "Turkish peppers" . but they were a poor man's pepper. They still loved their black peppercorns.
During the Napoleonic wars early in the 1800's black pepper became unobtainable and was the price of gold, so the Turkish peppers became popular to add zest to a dish. They called them the Hungarian word for pepper, "paprika" and also dried and ground into a powder, which we call paprika also.
The Hungarians who were great beef herdsman or cowboys use to coat their beef with the ground dried pepper that they called Paprika on long cattle drives up to places like Frankfurt Germany, where they traded cattle. The coating which is now called a "rub" not only flavored it but preserved it, they didn't have ice and coolers back then.
They could make this right on the plains at night in a hanging cauldron, over an open fire.
The Germans caught wind of this Goulash seasoned with paprika and it has been popular there ever since!
Most of my early career as a chef, Paprika was something that you sprinkled on food to make it look pretty like deviled eggs. We never actually thought you would use it to add flavor.
Chili peppers were HOT and Tabasco sauce was something we would use to dare folks!
Here is a movie of the Hungarian Herdsmen Making Goulash
Some of the Basics of Making Goulash
The basics of Goulash Hungarian Style from Wikipedia.
An important rule for all kinds of goulash, pörkölt and paprikás is to start by frying the onions in the fat until light gold (never darker), take the pan off the fire, immediately add the paprika powder to the hot mixture and stir well, then add the meat and stir again to coat the meat well with the onion-fat-paprika mixture before returning the pot to the fire.
This ensures that the flavour of the paprika is released by contact with the hot fat, but that it does not burn or become bitter, which can easily happen if the pan is not taken off the fire first.
Goulash can be prepared from beef, veal,[ pork, or lamb. Typical cuts include the shank, shin, or shoulder; as a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen, which is converted to gelatin during the cooking process. Meat is cut into chunks, seasoned with salt, and then browned with sliced onions in a pot with oil or lard.
Paprika is added, along with water or stock, and the goulash is left to simmer. After cooking a while, garlic, whole or ground caraway seeds, or soup vegetables like carrot, parsnip, peppers (green or bell pepper), celery and a small tomato may be added. Other herbs and spices could also be added, especially hot chili peppers, bay leaf and thyme. Diced potatoes may be added, since they provide starch as they cook, which makes the goulash thicker and smoother.
A small amount of white wine or wine vinegar may also be added near the end of cooking to round the taste. Goulash may be served with small egg noodles called csipetke. The name Csipetke comes from pinching small, fingernail-sized bits out of the dough (csip =pinch) before adding them to the boiling soup.