Hungarian Beef Goulash – The Debate


The recipe for Hungarian Beef Goulash that I will post today is one I have been cooking for years. My Mother and I had a discussion recently about my recipe… apparently, in her opinion, my Goulash is not “authentic”…. well…. we have a difference of opinion…

So I did some research.. and I believe my one Hungarian Cookbook says it all…. as many as there are Hungarian cooks… there are probably as many Goulash recipes…. much like the American Pot Roast… or Beef Stew.

I also surfed the net… I found many, many recipes for “Authentic” Hungarian Beef Goulash… and no two were exactly alike.

So what is Hungarian Beef Goulash? Well, they seem to agree on a few things…. beef, onions and paprika…. after that…. things go astray. Some had tomatoes… some insist absolutely NO tomatoes… some add carrots… some add celery… some use wine… some don’t…. some use beef stock …some use only wine… some use both…so I have come to the conclusion… that most are similar… and the basic taste is roughly the same… a beef stew that is seasoned heavily with sweet and hot paprika… and has onions… my recipe falls into this category.

According to my Mother, my Grandfather used wine and no stock… I honestly don’t remember that… but I was too young to remember when he made it. I use beef stock with a healthy dose of wine (which cooks off… but leaves a wonderful robust flavor).

I do remember that his golden rule was… you had to use the same amount of onions as you did beef… so if you used 2 pounds of beef…. you had to use 2 pounds of onions. He also insisted that when you added the paprika… you had to take the pot off the heat when you added it in. He also used a mix of sweet and hot paprika…. at least this much my Mom and I agree on.

Quite possibly my recipe evolved over the years… I honestly don’t know…. what I can tell you is that when vacationing in Toronto years ago… we happened on a small Hungarian restaurant… and decided to stop and eat supper there. In the restaurant, they had this map of that area from where my family was from… when the waitress asked why I was studying the map so intently… I told her I was looking for my family’s home town…. and told her the town… she ran into the back… and out came the owner/chef and his wife… they were from a town about 10 miles from my family’s… we were treated like family guests… it was a wonderful evening of fabulous food and wine…. and the Goulash was almost a carbon copy of mine.

So “authentic” recipes will always be a matter of opinion… and frankly… they are all authentic… it’s what has evolved from their family.

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