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Hot and Strong soup for the cold: The original gulyás soup


It is getting colder and colder outside. For all this cold weather what could be better than a warm, strong soup?

Hungarian goulash soup

Hungarian goulash soup

Among the first thoughts foreigners have about Hungary is about Gulyás soup. It is a worldwide famous dish, and because of this, naturally there are many versions of it. Every nation is changing it a bit, but what is the original one like? Where does this soup come from? How many versions are there within the cultural borders of Hungary?  Before I give you the recipe of the original soup, I will write a bit about its history.

Let me start with the etymology of the name: Gulyásleves. Gulyás means herdsman or cattlemen and leves is soup. From this we can get easily to the origin of it. The soup was the number one food of the herdsmen living in the Great Hungarian Plain, (Alföld or Puszta). These Hungarian herdsmen or cattlemen often camped out with their cattle far from any populated areas, so they had to make their food from ingredients they could carry with them, and naturally from the meat that was all around them. They had a cauldron, (bogrács in Hungarian), carried with themselves in which they made the soup over an open fire.  This is practiced even today, not just as a tourist attraction, but for example, when people are going for excursions with tents they are usually making this soup in cauldrons.  So getting back to our herdsmen, because the Hungarian Plain is very windy, and in the winter it is terribly cold, they needed a consistent, strong food to make – so originally it was not even a soup, but more like a stew. Only when the dish started to be popular in the cities, and not only in the circle of peasants, did it start to take the form of a ‘soup’.

The first form of gulyás, still among the herdsmen, was made with the meat of the famous Hungarian Grey Cattle, (“Węgierskie bydło szare” in Polish), until around the 1790s. Later, shepherds started to make this soup, logically with mutton.

So let us move on to the recipes:

A ‘genuine’ Hungarian goulash recipe

The meat:  As I was wrote earlier, originally it was made from the meat of grey cattle, but we can make it from normal beef, mutton, pork, or even chicken. It is not recommended that you use the meat of any young animal, because they will not give too much strength to the soup.

Other ingredients: Carrots, potatoes, parsley, onion, salt, red paprika powder and pepper to make it spicy.

How to: First you have to fry the onion in oil, and when it has become a bit soft, you can add the meat chopped in cubes, and of course, some water. After the meat has browned, you can add the carrots and parsley, also chopped.  Later you can add the potatoes, and you can spice it as you like. Remember to use the red paprika powder, and if you want, some hot paprika paste.

Sometimes, when we pour it onto the plate, we eat it with hot paprika, or we put hot, dried paprika into the soup. It is so good that it makes you cry.

Making it on an open fire can take more time, but it also gives it a bit different taste, and different feeling especially if you have some sheep around you.

In some versions, people put tomato puree into it, or sweet or sour cabbage; in others they use homemade noodles.

A very famous type of gulyásleves, is the so called babgulyás, the bean gulyás. For this you have to soak the beans for a day, and then when you are making the soup, you bring it to the boil, together with the meat.

As Hungarian cuisine is quite greasy, strong and consistent, this soup represents every aspect of it.

Polish gulasz soup:

In conclusion, I will tell you about my first encounter with a Polish gulyás soup.  Generally, I don’t remember every ingredient that was in it, but what I do remember is that it was almost nothing like the Hungarian soup, though it was still very good.  I also remember some mushrooms floating in it, which was definitely not in the original recipe.  The most important ingredients, those that make gulyásleves what it is, were missing – the red paprika powder, the greasiness, and the spice. All in all, it was a good soup, but I as a Hungarian would not call it gulyás soup. Of course,  people in Hungary also make many kinds and versions, putting whatever  they have at home in it , so it is also natural that in other countries people change some ingredients in other countries,  and make the soup according to their own national taste.

I am very curious to find out whether there are any restaurants with this soup on the menu in Szczecin, and if so, I would really like to taste it, so If you, dear reader, can tell me about a good place, then I would be glad to try some.

Goulash made in the traditional manner

Goulash made in the traditional manner

I am Beatrice Berke, I live in Romania, but I am Hungarian. Presently I’m working as a PR manager at the local Hungarian University. I am very much interested in literature and anthropology. I like to travel, to get to know other cultures and every aspect of them like language, literature, gastronomy, traditions etc. I’m interested in Poland and its culture mainly because my fiancé is Polish, studying in Szczecin and I have quite many Polish friends. My dream is to live in Poland, together with my fiancé.

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2 comments to “Hot and Strong soup for the cold: The original gulyás soup”

  1. Atlis · 2012/11/17 · Permalink Reply

    I usually add paprika (50% sweet, 50% hot and a lot ;) before the meat. So it would go – fat (not oil), onion, paprika, meat… Because the paprika will be fried for a bit, it tastes just a bit better than added after the meat and water. ;)

  2. Beatrice · 2012/11/19 · Permalink Reply

    Yes, you are right, you can add the paprika before the meet, I sometimes forget about it and add it at the end of all. Even if you add the paprika powder at the beginning you can still add some at the end to make the soup stronger. :D

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