Rainy season started in Seattle. As I was lying in bed this morning, listening to the sound of rain drops and pondering the meaning of life, or what I should eat to combat the cold weather, I had a sudden crave for Hungarian Goulash.
Goulash, or Gulyás in Hungarian, is one of the national dishes of Hungary. It is basically a soup or a stew of meat and vegetables. What distinguishes Gulyás from other types of soups or stews is the use of the Hungarian paprika.
Hungarian paprika is made from peppers that are harvested, sorted, toasted, and blended to create different varieties. All Hungarian paprikas have some degree of rich, sweet red pepper flavor, but they range in pungency and heat. The eight grades of Hungarian paprika are:
- Special quality (különleges) the mildest, very sweet with a deep bright red color
- Delicate (csípősmentes csemege) – color from light to dark red, a mild paprika with a rich flavor
- Exquisite delicate (csemegepaprika) – similar to delicate, but more pungent
- Pungent exquisite delicate (csípős csemege, pikáns) – an even more pungent version of delicate
- Rose (rózsa) – pale red in color with strong aroma and mild pungency
- Noble sweet (Édesnemes) – the most commonly exported paprika; bright red and slightly pungent
- Half-sweet (félédes) – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
- Strong (erős) – light brown in color, the hottest paprika
For us foreigners, the best place to shop for Hungarian paprika in Budapest is The Central Market Hall (Nagycsarnok):
Along with seasonal produce and other Hungarian specialties:
such as goose liver and Hungarian salami
But my favorites are on the second floor, where you will find Lángos:
and these succulent roasted goose legs, I was sold the minute I set my eyes on them:
Now back to Gulyás. If you are shopping for paprika, try to memorize the Hungarian names of the eight grades of Hungarian paprikas before hand. I had a hard time figuring out what’s what at the market. Next, know your flavor preference. And the rest is easy.
I chose this Gulyás recipe because I find it closely resembles the Gulyás we had in Budapest. Traditional Gulyás does not use tomatoes or tomato paste. The red color simply comes from high quality paprika. The consistency of traditional Gulyás should be a cross between a soup and a stew. So it should not be thick and mushy.
Hungarian Beef Goulash (Gulyás Leves)
Serves 8 – loosely adapted from Tyler Florence
2-3 TBSP bacon grease or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 lbs. beef shank, chuck roast, or shoulder, cut into 1/2-1 inch cubes
3 TBSP sweet Hungarian paprika
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 cups low-sodium beef broth, or water (either, or any combination of the two, is fine)
2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch half-rounds
2 red or green bell peppers, diced
2 Hungarian wax peppers, or banana wax peppers, seeded and finely diced
2 tsp. whole caraway seeds, toasted*
1/4-1/2 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika, or to taste
1 1/2 TBSP red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Egg noodles, rye bread, or pumpernickel bread, for serving – optional
*To toast caraway seeds, place in a dry pan over medium-low heat and shake or stir for a few minutes, or until fragrant. The seeds can be added to the soup whole, or ground with a spice grinder or mortar and pistil.
1. Place a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon grease or vegetable oil. Saute the onions, stirring frequently, until translucent.
2. Turn the heat to high, and add the cubed beef, sweet paprika, and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly for several minutes, or until the meat is seared on all sides. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute or two more.
3. Add about four cups of broth or water (enough to cover the meat) and bring to a boil, then cover and lower the temperature to simmer. Cook for about 1.5 – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more water or broth as needed to keep the meat covered.
4. Once the meat begins to feel tender, add the potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, wax peppers, caraway seeds, hot paprika, and vinegar. Return to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Again, add a little more broth or water as necessary, to keep a soup consistency.
5. Season to taste with salt, and more hot paprika, if you like. Serve over nokedili egg noodles, or with a rustic loaf of bread.
I used Icelandic lamb shank instead of beef shank in this recipe. After I carved all the meat off, I threw the bone into the soup. When it was done, the meat fell off the bone and I was left with a flavorful bone marrow to work on.
Next time, I would ground the caraway seeds after toasting. It makes for a better presentation.
And if the heat isn’t enough, this paprika paste is the perfect condiment to any meal:
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