Many years ago my friend’s dad cooked us goulash. I guess his version of goulash was a mix of German (his origin) and Indonesian (his wife’s origin). Well, the only slight Indonesian (or maybe Southeast Asian in general because they were living in Singapore…) influence was the thai bird chilies. Anyway, I loved this goulash and since then, goulash has been my winter favorite. I googled “Hungarian goulash” and every single recipe was very different and since I had never tried or even seen “authentic” goulash before, I decided to follow a recipe posted by someone who has a Hungarian grandmother. I’m very fussy about “authentic” recipes but I guess even when I look at Japanese dishes, Japanese people may be able to point out what’s authentic and what’s not, but every family has a different way of cooking things.
So over the years, I’ve taken that recipe I found and just altered it to my taste. Some goulash is more soupy than stewy. Some are eaten with potatoes, some with spätzle. Some are cooked with pork, some with beef.
I like to put mushrooms in my goulash and eat it with egg noodles. I cooked my goulash for my Austrian boyfriend and he told me it was good, but not goulash… Apparently I need to use a lot more onions because the onions are what thickens goulash… But anyway, here is my goulash:
Season cubed beef (chuck) generously with salt and pepper and coat with a light layer of flour.
Brown the cubed beef on all sides in some olive oil. I used a little less than 2 pounds, which is good for 4-5 portions. Make sure the pan is really hot (a shallow pan is better for this, to prevent steaming and no browning) to get a nice development of fond (the brown stuff that sticks to the pan and contains a lot of umami/flavor). Sear the beef in batches because if you crowd them, they will steam and not develop a nice brown color. There is no need to cook them all the way through- just sear the surface.
Set the seared beef aside.
Slice two medium-large onions and caramelize them with some olive oil. Keep the heat low so they don’t burn. It takes time to get these a nice golden color but they become so sweet and flavorful (water evaporates and you’re left with a concentration of delicious onion flavors). Add minced garlic (2 cloves), hot Hungarian paprika (4-5 tablespoons- more if you prefer), chili powder (1 tablespoon- but more if you want it spicier), dried marjoram and bay leaves. Add the beef and mix well. Add enough beef or veal stock to just cover the beef. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Skim the surface of all the scum.
Keep simmering until the beef is tender. Add more stock if necessary. You can season with more salt and pepper in the end because if you salt it before it reduces, it will end up too salty.
Serve with a starch of your choice!