Today is day one of my self-imposed Eat the World challenge! I’m starting with Hungarian food because it’s November and my family loves nothing if not hearty, rib-stickin’ food. It’s a blessing and a curse.
So, goulash! Goulash may as well be the national dish of Hungary. It’s somewhere between a soup and a stew and it usually contains meat, namely beef. Any number of other accouterments are added during cooking, from bell peppers to carrots to parsnips. I will not be adding parsnips because parsnips are gross. What makes Hungarian goulash goulash (from the Hungarian “gulyás” which means cowboy, apparently…) is the addition of sweet paprika. Paprika’s used in all kinds of Hungarian dishes – click here for the history and whatnot of the spice if you’re, you know, into that kind of thing.
We had a really, really delicious goulash in Ljubljana, Slovenia last year. Could’ve been the cobblestone streets and atmospheric lighting but I’m pretty sure it was just good. The next day we stumbled upon a literal goulash cook-off in the middle of the street so the whole thing was quite possibly a fever dream.
The trick to a real goulash is adding the paprika at the right time, ensuring it doesn’t turn burned and bitter. Like any good Everything Stew, goulash differs from house to house, restaurant to restaurant, so I’m going to try it several different ways before it’s all said and done. For example, this time around I’m skipping the potatoes and making fingernail-sized pinched noodles called “Csipetke” (say it like “chipet-kuh”) instead because CARBS. And also a Hungarian cucumber salad because cucumbers were on sale at Costco and sometimes that’s what informs our cooking decisions, guys.
Here are the recipes I drew from:
Daring Gourmet’s Goulash
Budapest by Locals’ Goulash and Csipetke
All Recipe’s Hungarian Cucumber Salad
Where I got my Hungarian ingredients in Charlotte:
Savory Spice Shop (South Blvd.)
Traditional Hungarian Goulash
2.5 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1″ cubes
2 sweet onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 bell peppers, any color, chopped (*traditional goulash uses green bell peppers)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
5 cups beef broth or stock
3 tbsp. butter (*traditional goulash uses lard or pork fat)
1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika (*available at spice stores)
1 tsp. caraway seed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1. Heat the butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions then season with salt and pepper and saute, stirring often, about 7-10 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove pan from heat and add the paprika, stirring for a minute or so to combine. (This part’s important! Removing the pan from the heat keeps the paprika from burning and turning slightly bitter.)
2. Put the pan back on the heat then add the beef cubes and garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes or so to get rid of all the pink in the beef – they’ll make a bit of liquid of their own. Once the pink’s gone, add enough beef broth to cover everything (about 3-4 cups) as well as the bay leaf, the caraway seed, and the 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes up to an hour, depending on how tough your cut of meat is.
3. Add the carrots and peppers, cover, and simmer on low heat for another hour or so. If necessary, add more beef broth so all the ingredients are covered. If you like your goulash thicker – like stew – simmer uncovered for the last 30 minutes or so to thicken. (Depending on who serves it, goulash can be eaten as a soup or a stew.) Serve with sour cream on top.
Notes: This was keeper! Having made a mediocre goulash once before I now realize it’s crucial not to burn the paprika or the flavor’s a bit…off. Seasoning at nearly every step is important, too. Next time I’ll add potatoes. Goulash is traditionally served with crusty bread or over some kind of dumpling or noodle – I used csipetke.
Csipetke (Hungarian Pinched Dumplings)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
water to moisten
(*To match the amount of goulash you made above, double these measurements)
1. Mix the first three ingredients together. Add water to create a very hard, non-sticky dough. Knead for a minute or two until all ingredients are combined, adding more water if necessary to adhere everything together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
2. Flatten the dough ball to about 1/2″ thick. Pinch small pieces of dough off – whatever size or shape you like! – the point is to be homey and imperfect. Drop csipetke all at once into boiling salted water; cook for about five minutes then drain. Serve goulash over the csipetke like noodles.
Notes: Didn’t love these. The hard dough yields tough, chewy dumplings which aren’t as tasty as something a little lighter, if you ask me. Going to try something different next time – something called nokedli.
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
1 English cucumber, sliced thin (*I used a mandolin)
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1. Toss cucumber with all the other ingredients. Let sit for about 30 minutes before serving for flavors to meld.
Notes: This was great! You need something sharp like this to cut through all the heaviness of the goulash and the dumplings.