The History of Goulash

May 21, 2014 by

The History of Goulash

This article was written by Phin Upham

Goulash, spelled originally gulyas, is a thick soup or stew that can trace its roots back to 9th century Hungarian sheep herders. Even the name translates to English as “herdsmen.” Soup was a staple of these early farm hands because dried meat and vegetables were easy to transport.

Traditional goulash has a sour taste, gleaned by whipping sour cream into the dish before it is served. The Middle Ages was the only period in time where goulash was not a staple for herdsmen, making soup one of the most consistently important dishes in Hungarian cuisine throughout history.

The soup is made with a meat base. The meat is carved into cubes, then place it into a heavy kettle with plenty of onions. This creates a lot of excess moisture, which is slowly simmered out of the mixture. The mixture would then be transported with the herders as they moved. When the hunger pangs struck, the herders simply removed the dried mixture and added some water to make a soup. So there are essentially two ways of preparing goulash, either with more or less water.

The soup is also widely perceived to taste better as more meat is added. Lard and bacon are definitely part of every version of goulash, but the soup only uses the spice caraway and nothing more. There are also variations that use fresh or pureed tomatoes too. Cooks also add hot peppers to the mixture to turn the heat up according to their tastes.

Although goulash has become a popular Western dish, the American version bears little resemblance to the traditional stew.

Phin Upham

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his LinkedIn page.

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