Foodie Friday: Authentic Hungarian Goulash

It´s probably the most famous Hungarian dish out there – goulash. Goulash, a stew or soup, is actually a mishmash of things: meat, potatoes, onion, carrots and other veggies. Seasoned with paprika, Hungary´s favorite spice, goulash is actually a simple meal to make, which of course makes it delicious. We first had goulash in the Czech Republic (with some strawberry dumplings!), but it didn’t compare to the authentic Hungarian meal.

The word goulash is so linked to Hungary that we actually use it to describe the type of Communism in Hungary during the Cold War. ¨Goulash Communism¨ we call it, a mishmash of limited political and economic freedoms under Communist rule.

Politics aside, goulash is a stick to your ribs kind of home-cooked meal. Cooking with our couchsurfing host, we chopped the veggies and meat, added the spices and watched the goulash simmer. It was absolutely delicious, but like all home-cooked recipes, according to our host, it wasn’t as good as her mother’s.

Here´s a traditional goulash recipe, probably better for a cold winter night rather than July, but…. well we´re not holding this post until then!

Authentic Hungarian Goulash (Recipe thanks to June Meyer)

  • 2 lb. beef chuck
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 onions, white or yellow
  • 2 Tbsp. lard or shortening
  • 2 Tbsp. imported sweet paprika (most important to use real hungarian paprika for ultimate flavor)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Qt. water
  • 4 peeled and diced potatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Cut beef into 1 inch squares, add 1/2 tsp. salt. Chop onions and brown in shortening, add beef and paprika. Let beef simmer in its own juice along with salt and paprika for 1 hr. on low heat. Add water, diced potatoes and remaining salt. Cover and simmer until potatoes are done and meat is tender. Prepare egg dumpling batter:

  • 1 egg
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Add flour to unbeaten egg and salt. Mix well. Let stand for 1/2 hour for flour to mellow. Drop by teaspoonful into Goulash. Cover and simmer 5 minutes after dumplings rise to surface.

Photo from Budapest Tourist


Pushing further into Central Europe we headed to Budapest. Famous for its castle, thermal baths and well quite a bit of history Budapest has captured my imagination since middle school. For me there is just some mystic surrounding Budapest that I can’t explain. Exotic and historical, Budapest seeps in its own past.

Buda castle and it’s old city were beautiful and interesting, but it was beneath Buda castle that we found the really intriguing part of Budapest. The labyrinth as its called is a series of caves underneath Buda castle. A vast network dug out over time, starting with the Romans, the caves have been witness to the history of Budapest, from providing refuge during times of war, to cellars to ferment wine and store food, the caves have a history as far back as Budapest it’s self. Not that you’d ever know that going to the Labyrinth itself. Dark, damp and slightly mildewy, the caves have been turned into a rather hokey tourist attraction. Strange counterfeit cave drawings decorate the walls and there are mysterious statues and sculptures throught the caves. Without any explanation the whole things seemed a bit bizarre and by the end it had collapsed into a joke. We emerged into the daylight wondering why we had paid entrance to the place.

Fortunately, there were few surprises at Budapest´s famous thermal baths.

It is said if you dig a hole in Budapest you´ll find a thermal spring. This of course is Europe, so the hot springs (baths) aren´t natural pools, they are magnificent victorian bath houses, ornately decorated with fountains, roman columns, the whole nine yards. We checked in to the Szechenyi Baths , changed and emerged on the deck ready to relax.


Unfortunately, the baths themselves didn´t seem very hot so after soaking in luke warm water for a few minutes we headed for the saunas. Marked, 60-80 degrees Celcius, the sauna thermometer actually read 81. Finally a little heat. Less than 2 minutes after getting to the sauna we left sweating profusely, showered off and jumped into an ice cold bath. Heat and repeat seemed to be the motto, and we completed the cycle a few times before tapping out. Feeling healthy and sort of like steamed vegetables, we decided enough was enough and went out for some ice cream. (Ok, we didn´t, but I wanted to!)

Budapest is a lovely city and despite failing to obtain visas for central asia, another of our goals while in Budapest, we had a great time and definitely would love to return.

*Pictures from Rick Steves .  Promise we´ll upload some soon!