In Hungary, Gulyasleves is a dish which is prepared like a soup. A herdsman is a gulyas, and leves means soup. This soup is typically made with beef, vegetables, ground paprika, and other spices. It was a dish which was cooked by cattlemen tending their herds on the Great Hungarian Plain. They cooked it outdoors over an open fire in a portable cauldron which was called bogracs. Originally the dish was similar to a stew and was called bogracsgulyas. When Gulyasleves is served in a Hungarian restaurant it is a soup, but Hungarians in their homes cook the dish as a stew. The recipe has many variations and although the usual meat is beef, mixed meats may also be used such as pork and mutton/lamb. To this one can add tomatoes, carrots and fresh peppers (often hot chilies). Ingredients like onions, paprika, and caraway seeds bring out the flavor in this dish and cubed potatoes or pasta squares may be added.
Goulash, Porkolt, and Paprikas are traditional Hungarian stews. All of them originated as herdsmen stews and are looked upon as the national dishes of Hungary. Porkolt is made with boneless meat, paprika, and some vegetables but no potatoes whereas Paprikas consists of meat, paprika, and thick, heavy sour cream. Other ingredients that may be added are garlic, tomato for color, a few caraway seeds, fresh green pepper, and if made with game, wine. The only stew that uses flour is Paprikas.
The most important thing to remember when preparing any of the above-mentioned dishes is that one must start by frying onions in hot fat until they are golden in color. Then they are taken off the fire and paprika is added and mixed in with the onions while they are still hot. Afterward, meat is added and it is coated with the onion paprika mixture then returned to heat. Goulash may be prepared with either beef, veal, pork or lamb. The main cuts of meat that are used are the shank, shin or shoulder.
The meat is then cut into chunks seasoned with salt and browned with sliced onions. Along with water or stock, paprika is added and the goulash is simmered. After it has cooked awhile, garlic, whole or ground caraway seeds, or vegetables such as carrot, parsnip, green peppers, celery, and tomato can be added. Spices like hot chili peppers, bay leaf, and thyme may also be used for added flavor. Sometimes diced potatoes are added to make the goulash thicker. When the cooking is almost done white wine or wine vinegar may be added. The goulash can then be served with small egg noodles called csipetke. Small bits of dough (csip–pinch) are added to the boiling goulash.
There are many different varieties of goulash:
Gulyas a la Szeged
Gulyas a la Szeged – consists of pork shoulder, onions, caraway seeds, garlic paprika, sauerkraut and sour cream.
Gulyas Hungarian Plain Style – vegetables are added and the pasta–csipetke is left out.
Mock Gulyas, which is also called Hamisgulyas (Fake or Gypsy goulash). Meat is substituted with beef bones and vegetables are added.
There are cookbooks that suggest using roux with flour to thicken goulash while others say to use a lot of tomatoes for color and taste. However, original goulash is flavored with paprika and if tomatoes are used, the flavor should be subtle, not overwhelming. Most Hungarians chefs consider that tomatoes should not be used in goulash and that it should be thickened by diced potatoes simmered along with the meat.
There is a paprika-based potato stew called Paprikas krumpli. It uses diced potatoes, onion, tomato, bell peppers, ground paprika and a bit of bacon or sliced spicy sausage, like Debrecener sausage (a pork sausage which is a reddish-orange color. It is spiced with paprika and seasonings such as garlic, pepper, and marjoram. It comes unsmoked or lightly smoked) used in German-speaking countries.
Thick stews are popular from Northeast Italy to the Carpates and are usually served with boiled or mashed potatoes, polenta, dumplings, spaetzle or bread.
Wiener Saftgulasch or Flakergulasch is served in Viennese restaurants. It is a stew similar to Porkolt and uses lots of onions and other vegetables but no tomatoes. It is usually served with dumplings called Semmelknodel. In Germany, it is called Gulasch, Rindergulasch or Gulaschsuppe and is made with beef, potatoes in a tomato based broth.
The Dutch in Netherland make a dish like Porkolt and use beef, lamb or pork and sometimes even fish. In Italy, goulash is made in the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Suditrol and is a regular dish.
For Sundays.adaptations to goulash come from Australia, Canada, and the United States. Ground beef is substituted for beef chunks and most often noodles, pasta, or elbow macaroni are added.
Goulash is also popular in Croatia, especially in the north Hrvatsko Zagorje and Lika. Deer and boar usually replace beef in Gorski Kotar and Lika and is called Lovacki gulas. Gulas od vrganja is a goulash made with porcini mushrooms and bacon is an important ingredient in Croatian goulash. It is often served with fuzi (which is a traditional Istrian pasta shaped like a bow), polenta (ground yellow or white cornmeal and when boiled it has a creamy texture) or pasta. Usually, vegetables such as green and red bell peppers and carrots are used in Ciganski gulas in Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia.
Meat may also be added, like pork loin, bacon, or mutton. During WWII, Slovenian partisans favored Partizanski gulas which uses a great deal of quartered potatoes, making it thicker than soup but not quite as thick as goulash. It is still served at large public events. In Poland, goulash is known as gulasz and is like the Hungarian Porkolt and eaten with buckwheat kasha. Goulash in the Czech Republic consists of beef, dark bread, and beer added to it.