It is usually prepared from beef, but it can be also made from veal, pork, or lamb. But no matter what kind of meat is used, goulash is best prepared with tougher cuts of meat which become tender when cooked with slow, moist heat.
Although it has many variations, goulash is a simple dish. While goulash ingredients can include parsnips, carrots, peppers (green or bell pepper), tomatoes, garlic and black pepper and many others, goulash can really be made from nothing but beef, onions, and paprika.
The origins of goulash have been traced to the 9th century, to stews eaten by Magyar shepherds. Before setting out with their flocks, they prepared a portable stock of food by slowly cooking cut-up meats with onions and other flavourings until the liquids had been absorbed. The stew was then dried in the sun and packed into bags made of sheep’s stomachs. At mealtime, water was added to a portion of the meat to reconstitute it into a stew or soup.
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.
Earlier versions of goulash did not include paprika, as it was not introduced to the Old World until the 16th century. Paprika is used to infuse goulash with its rusty warmth.
Hungarian’s 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.
Goulash is as well a fundamental part of Slovak cuisine, where is prepared in several different tastes too, mainly the same ones of Hungarian cuisine. Slovakia was an important part of the Kingdom of Hungary for several centuries, and the two cuisines have many common recipes.
Today, goulash is popular all over the world, and in Hungary is regarded as the national meat dish.
The name originates from the Hungarian “gulyás”. The word “gulya” means “herd of cattle” in Hungarian, and “gulyás” means “herdsman” or “cowboy”. Over time the dish became gulyáshús (goulash meat) – that is to say, a meat dish which was prepared by herdsmen.
American goulash, sometimes called slumgullion, is an American comfort food dish, similar to American chop suey. American goulash is usually referred to in the midwestern and southern United States as simply “goulash”. As a descendant, of sorts, of Hungarian goulash, the only real connection seems to be the name, and the inclusion of beef and paprika.
The world record for the largest bowl of goulash is 7,200 litres (1,583.78 gal) in an event organised by Orizont TV during the Chestnut Festival in Baia Mare, Romania on 29 September 2007.
Goulash Communism was the maverick brand of communism practiced by Hungary during the Cold War, characterized by some degree of political freedom within the Hungarian Communist Party as well as limited economic freedom and freedom of speech, inspired at least in part by the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.