Hungarian Goulash soup is a hearty stew originally from Hungary usually containing lean beef, potatoes and smoked paprika. Goulash is a popular dish in many European countries besides Hungary, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
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There are many variations of goulash. The traditional recipe from the heart of Hungary often includes beef, onions, paprika, pepper, tomatoes, green bell peppers, potatoes and sometimes noodles. At first glance, goulash resembles Vietnamese stew, however it boasts a wide range of ingredients and is much hotter than Vietnamese stews. Depending on how much paprika is added, it can be one of the hottest dishes in the world.
Goulash is cooked with cubed and seasoned beef, veal, pork or lamb. Traditionally, goulash gains the best flavor when it is cooked in a fir pot. In Hungary the dish is often served for dinner. When evening sets in, the cook of the family starts a fire and heats oil in a bogrács. Then they add the onion and fry it for about five minutes until it becomes dark and aromatic. They add paprika and meat and stir it well, mixing it in with the seasoning. Then they add water and small cubed potatoes to thicken the soup. The pot is covered and left to simmer for 30 minutes. Finally, the cook adds large pieces of potatoes and carrots and leaves the stew to cook until the meat is tender and aromatic. The flavor of goulash can be enhanced by adding spices such as bay leaf and basil. When the soup thickens, the cook lowers the heat and adds white wine or vinegar to enhance the taste.
Goulash’s indispensable ingredient is powdered paprika. The paprika used in goulash is distinct and different from powdered pepper in other places. The flavor of the spice can taste anywhere from mild to extremely hot and can range in color from scarlet to dark brown. Brown paprika has been known to make its consumers “breath fire.” Hungarians often sprinkle paprika over their dishes, making them impressively spicy. Paprika is also used to season meat before cooking. Food cooked with paprika and oil is especially tasty.
Nothing beats sitting with family as the sun goes down and enjoying goulash with black bread, grilled meat, mustard and pickled cucumber. Dinner can last from sunset until 9 or 10 pm. The best time to enjoy goulash in Hungary is the end of spring. Goulash can be served with csipetke (Hungarian pinched noodles), potatoes or bread. A meal is perfected by pairing goulash with a glass of Hungarian apricot wine.