Sandra Scott Travels: Enjoy The Taste of Hungary in Your Own Home

Goulash - ready to eat

Last week I asked: What is the Hungarian word for “cowboy?”


The word gulyás, commonly written goulash, means “cowboy” in Hungarian.

Goulash – ready to eat

The dish originated with ninth century shepherds who stewed their meat until all liquid disappeared, dried it in the sun and whenever they wanted food, they took out a piece of the dried meat, added some water and reheated it.

It is one of the national dishes of Hungary and a symbol of the country.

There are different variations of recipe.

Originally made with beef, but often mixed meats are used.

Typical cuts may include shank, leg or shoulder: as a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough muscles rich in collagen, which is converted to gelatin during the cooking process.

Chef Parade

The original dish called borgácsgulyás was a stew, not a soup.

Nowadays the dish served in Hungarian restaurants and homes alike is more like a soup.

Traditional Hungarian gulyás is often still cooked outdoors over open fire.

When I was in Budapest I signed up for a cooking class at Chefparade Cooking School.

They offered several options for both groups and individuals.

Some included a market visit but I passed on that.

The only other person in my class was Naveen from Portland, Oregon, and he did take the market visit which he said was great with a lot of taste treats.

The class included sampling Hungarian alcoholic brewages including Unicum, a Hungarian herbal liqueur or bitters, drunk as a digestif.

The liqueur is today produced according to a secret formula of more than forty herbs; the drink is aged in oak casks.

Dr Zwack, the royal physician created a mixture in 1790 for Joseph II, the Habsburg ruler who had a digestion disorder, so the royal physician tried to cure him with the help of herbs.

goulash – diced vegetables

The emperor shouted after drinking it: “Dr. Zwack, this is unique!”

Hence the name Unicum.

However, the Hapsburg ruler died anyways.

It has a bitter herbal taste and the best I can say is that it is an acquired taste.

Gulyásleves / Goulash soup

2 tbsp lard or oil of your choice, animal fat is best

1 onion, diced

1 tbsp sweet paprika powder or mix in some hot paprika

1 tsp ground caraway seeds

1 tsp salt

goulash – meat into bite size pieces

1 tsp tbsp ground black pepper

3 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ pound beef – cut into bite-size pieces

1 tomato – cubed

1 Hungarian sweet yellow pepper, or yellow bell pepper, cubed

1 large carrot, cubed

1 parsnip, peal and cubed

1 celeriac (or celery, Celeriac is a root vegetable closely related to celery). diced

2 large potatoes with skins, cubed

If you don’t have or can’t make Hungarian “csipetke” then pasta of your choice.

Sauté onions in lard (pork fat) on medium heat until it starts getting soft but brown.

Remove the pot from the fire and add the paprika powder.

Pour some water to it but always just a little at a time.

The goal is to make a base.

goulash – adding water

Add and sauté the meat along with the spices (salt, pepper, bay leaves, caraway seeds and the garlic).

Add tomatoes and the sweet yellow pepper.

When the meat is about half cooked, add the rest of the vegetables, more water as needed to get a soup, and keep cooking.

When the meat is almost cooked, add potato cubes and more water if necessary.

About 10 -15 minutes before finishing, add the “csipetke” pasta which is dumpling-kind of pasta or the pasta of your choice.

Cowboys headed home for supper

Serve with fresh bread.

Tip of the day: If you add sparkling water the meat will cook in half the time!

Travel Trivia Tease™: What three countries meet in Basel, Switzerland?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!

1 Comment

  1. My favorite meal has always been the Hungarian Goulash my mother made, and that I have made several times as well. We never put potatoes or parsnip in it, but otherwise, very similar to this; I always remember the paprika and caraway seeds added such flavor, and we add sour cream at the end to make it creamy. Served over wide egg noodles was the BEST!!

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