Traditional but delicious, goulash is a dish that is comforting, healthy, and good all year round.
From the herdsmen on the plain
Goulash is a traditional Hungarian dish, dating back as far as the 9th century. The word comes from the type of people who originally ate it – with goulash, or gulyás, translating as ‘herdsmen’ in Hungarian. Travelling across the great Hungarian plains with their cattle towards the markets of central Europe, the herdsmen needed a dish that was easy to prepare and could be made from accessible ingredients: the cattle they had on the trail, some spices that kept well on long journeys and root vegetables, which both took a long time to go off and were found easily on the way. The stew was the product of these unique circumstances.
An ever-evolving dish
The dish has changed a lot since it was first cooked, with many of the elements of it that we now regard as essential being later additions to the recipe. Paprika, for example, which we think of as a fundamental element of a great deal of Hungarian cooking, was not actually introduced to the ‘Old World’ (Europe) until the 16th century, when it was brought back from North America. The same goes for red peppers and potatoes, more North American discoveries, which were not brought to Hungary or to goulash until around the same time.
How it gets made
Goulash, with its thick texture and rich flavours, has a relatively long cooking process. It starts with the choice of meat. Ideally, goulash is made from pieces of meat that are high in muscle rather than fat, as it is the slow cooking of these cuts (shin or shoulder, for example) of the animal that give the stew its thickness, as the gelatine from the muscle melts into the dish. The cooking process starts with the meat being cooked with onion, paprika, and stock to tenderise the flesh. After a while, the vegetables are added – carrot, parsley, peppers – and some other spices are thrown in. Then, the whole thing gets left to stew down until it’s a delicious, thick consistency and the meat has become really tender.
What to eat it with
Back in Hungary, goulash is traditionally served with csipetke, a kind of small but thick egg noodle. If you can’t get that, pappardelle pasta works well. The stew also goes really well with boiled potatoes, or, for a really warming experience, hunks of crusty bread.
If you can’t make it to Hungary, it is possible to get a delicious goulash here in Singapore. Our favourite is at Deutschlander, where they perk theirs up with a little chilli.