FOOD HISTORY: Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian Goulash is a stew consisting of chunks of meat (pork, beef, lamb, veal and, even, turkey) plus onions, browned in fat, then cooked with water or stock to which seasoning using garlic, caraway seed and, particularly, Hungarian paprika is added. Vegetables, such as, carrots, green pepper, parsnips celery and, perhaps, some tomato may be added. Goulash is the national dish of Hungary and, as with most traditional ethnic dishes, each family has their own variation in the ingredients used except that paprika and caraway seed are common to all. However, the original dish did not contain paprika, which is now known as the national spice of Hungary. Hungarians are the descendants of the eastern European /Western Asian tribes called the Magyars. The word "Hungary" comes from the Turkic word meaning "10 Arrows" that depict the ten tribes of the Magyars from whom current day Hungarians descend. The word "Goulash" comes from the word "Gulyas" meaning "herdsman" in Hungarian. As the Gulyas (herdsmen) would travel on long cattle drives, they would butcher the weakest cows, which couldn't make the whole journey, and made their meat into stews for them to eat. The herdsman had wild onions and caraway, which grew on the plains of Hungary, and added these to their stew. Their Gulyas evolved into the stew we know today as Goulash. However, Hungary did not know of paprika until the Turks invaded Hungary and stayed for 150 years (1526 - 1699). The Turks introduced exotic spices, including paprika into Hungary. Initially, paprika was used only as a decorative plant until the herdsmen (Gulyas) started to spice their stews with the fiery paprika. From the herdsmen's stew pots the spice found its way into the Hungarian peasant's stews and, eventually, into stews being served to the Hungarian aristocracy. Because the herdsmen travelled all over Europe, they introduced people from many other countries to their paprika flavored goulash. People from these countries adapted the spice into their own versions of goulash, adding ingredients, eg, wine, brown sauce, various other spices, etc. that no self respecting Hungarian (Magyar) would ever use. That aside, "goulash" style dishes are popular in Austria, Germany, Croatia and many other countries around the world, including the United States where, in fact, according to a 1969 Gallup poll, goulash was one of the five most popular meat dishes on the American cooking scene. What could they possibly have thought about that in Budapest?