Suggest recipes for authentic Hungarian gulyas (and what was this awesome condiment?)

We just got back from our honeymoon where the New Mr. Z ate some sort of goulash every stinking day, from Romania to the Czech Republic. They were all different and sometimes weird, but our favorite was the authentic sort in Budapest. We had delicious food at some completely random restaurant we picked because our feet hurt and we refused to walk another block - I had the chicken paprikash with gorgeous potato dumpling things, he just stuck to the gulyas. His came with a little dish of some sort of condiment - obviously paprika-based, red, quite spicy but very flavorful (and quite tasty when stirred into my dumpling things!)

So: what was that?

And, suggest a good recipe for the authentic stuff we had in Hungary? (Or the really good inauthentic stuff we had in Romania, I’ll take that too!) A little spicy but not too spicy, lean meat with no gross parts, etc. Do you have to start with that paste they had in the grocery store that we couldn’t take back with us because we didn’t check luggage? Can you even get that here in the US?

The condiment sounds like ajvar. I can get that in a few Mediterranean markets in Denver. Yum.

The red paste is probably hot pepper paste I’ve seen that at the same markets.


Well, you’ve come to the right place. I can answer any questions you want about goulash. (And, in fact, is what I’m making for dinner today. Well, chicken goulash.)

First of all, do you want to make the soupy stuff with vegetables (which is sometimes translated as “goulash,” but is also translated as “goulash soup.” Anyhow, this is the stuff the Magyars call gulyás.) Or are you talking about the stew, which is called pörkölt in Hungarian and is a more dry type of dish, usually served with noodles called galuska or nokedli on the side?

For the soup, this is pretty much a standard recipe. I personally do 3:1 by weight of meat:onions. Otherwise, everything there is on-target, except that I also use a little bit of celery root in it, too.

For the stew, this is my illustrated recipe. Pörkölt is a very simple thing.

The paprika-based condiment you are talking about is erõs pista (literally, “strong Steve”), which is just a salt-and-fresh chile pepper paste. If you know what sambal oelek in the store, it’s similar to that.

Neither stew is generally made with very lean meat. It’s not necessarily made with fatty meat, either, but you want something like chuck, brisket, or shank. You know, the good low-and-slow cooking cuts.

Oh, and to answer the question: no, you don’t need that paste you saw in the supermarkets. I lived in Budapest for more than five years and I have never used that paprikakrém for anything. It’s fine, but it’s kind of pointless. But you must must must use good quality paprika. Pride of Szeged is a good baseline paprika, and widely available in the States. Penzey’s and Spice House also have Hungarian paprika that is very good, and one of those two (I think Spice House) had this awesome California paprika that also works well. You want a paprika that is a fairly bright red in color with the distinct smell of peppers. That brown-ish red McCormick’s stuff is terrible.

Also, and both recipes above mention this, Hungarian recipes typically start of with a fat (lard or sunflower oil, I prefer the former) and onions. You cook the onions until translucent (they are generally not browned), remove the pan from the heat, or reduce it completely, and add your paprika to the fat-and-onion mixture. Mix around briskly for about a minute to incorporate the paprika and fat. THIS IS CRUCIAL. You MUST add the paprika to the oil, and you MUST be careful not to scorch the paprika. If the paprika is not incorporated well into the oil, it does not release all its flavor. Paprika added after-the-fact to a soupy dish does very little for the flavor.

I went looking around a little more, and this Saveur recipe is also on the mark, assuming you’re talking more the soupy stuff. That might be interesting to you, as it also has marjoram in addition to caraway seeds. Most (if not all) of the goulash I’ve had in Budapest does not have marjoram in it, but it is not unheard of.

I was going to say I once got some Sambal Oelek with my Gulash; apparently it’s called eros pista :). The dumplibgs probably weren’r potato based (just water, salt and flower)…they can be nice in restaurants, but far better if grandma makes them.

Yep. The dumplings are not usually potato-based. There is a recipe for them in my first post, second link. They do exist, but mostly in the form of sztrapacska, a Slovak dish that defines stick-to-the-ribs: potato-and-flour dumplings, bacon, farmer’s cheese, sour cream. So bad, but soooo good after coming in from being outside on a cold winter’s day.

The menu for the chicken paprikash dish claimed they were gnocchi, which to me means potatoes, but you know how English menus are in other countries - could have been anything!

I was looking for the soupier, wetter stuff but will take awesome recipes of all descriptions.

It’s not absolutely impossible they were potato dumplings, but it would be atypical. And if you need paprikash recipes, let me know. That’s dead simple to make, too.

Hey, bring it. We ate like kings in Budapest. Couldn’t have found a bad meal if we tried.

That’s impressive. Budapest is kind of hit-and-miss for food, but sounds like you found some good spots.

My recipe with extensive notes for chicken paprikash.

June Meyer’s recipe is also very good (and this is also a good resource for Hungarian recipes.)

A lot of recipes will include tomato in the paprikash sauce. Most of the paprikash I’ve had did not contain tomatoes, and tomatoes, to me, taste out of place in paprikash. You must use whole chicken pieces, skin on, for this to taste right, in my opinion. I’ve made paprikash with boneless, skinless chicken breast, in order to keep things leaner, but it just isn’t right. Besides, you’re eating something with a crapload of sour cream in it–this isn’t diet food. You can also mix sour cream with whipping cream 50/50 for a slightly different flavor and creamier sauce.

Amazing read, I am impressed and like to wish you a very Happy New Year 2019. Keep up your good work.

Reported as spam. (newyear2019)

I have some jars of adjika (both red and green). I’m wondering if they can also be used as a condiment with Hungarian dishes.

FWIW, I occasionally stir in a tablespoon of adjika when I’m making pizza sauce. It’s delicious!

I’ve had red adjika before, and, while it wouldn’t be traditional, I think it would complement Hungarian stews pretty well, although it would obviously lend all sorts of extra herbs and spices to the flavor. The base of a lot of Hungarian food is simply fat + paprika + onion, so it’s a pretty clean palette to build on.

Quite a coincidence, as just last night I got a little jar of ajvar (which I just got turned onto a couple of years ago after I moved here to Krakow and am now addicted to) out of the fridge to spread a little scraping on a mini-pizza I was heating in the oven and was unhappily surprised to see that it had started to go moldy, only a week or so after being opened.

I know it isn’t the same, but back in the US, things like spaghetti sauce, salsa or chili sauce doesn’t go bad in only a few days.

I tossed the jar of ajvar, but I wonder if maybe it doesn’t have any preservatives, and if that made the difference?

Anyways, small world, seeing this thread.

I too like the food & wine in Hungary very much, but oddly enough, the best Mexican food I have ever found in Europe was in Budapest, and although it was not actually great, at least by the standards of growing up in Salt Lake City, (where authentic Mexican places are omnipresent, far more than any other ethnic cuisine) compared to “Mexican” food I have tried (and ALWAYS bitterly regretted) in places like Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, etc., it was good enough that I have ended up going back there every time I have been in Budapest since.

For being so far away from Mexico, Budapest actually does have a few pretty decent Mexican places. The original was/is Iguana Bar and Grill, which in the mid-90s onward became a bit of an American ex-pat meeting point and also a place where you’d take your sources (I worked in journalism) for a drink, a bite to eat, and some background information. It was started by an expat, Cory Skolnik and I believe now is run by Mo Ortiz, both people who have experience with Tex-Mex cuisine. I can’t say I have a large sample size of Tex-Mex or Mexican dining in Europe, but of the ones I’ve tried, this was the only one that reminded me of actual Tex-Mex food. Like the fact they even had Mexican style chorizo back in the late 90s was incredible. And it was good!

Arriba Tacqueria (which I believe is also run by Mo) is another pretty decent place for fast food style Mexican food. I was absolutely shocked when I was in Budapest last year and they had cochinita pibil as a limited time offering. Of course, I had to try it. It wasn’t great, but it was a nice attempt. Definitely tasted like cochinita pibil, but I suspect there just wasn’t enough product turnaround (as nobody knew what the hell it was), so my taco was a bit on the dry side, which shouldn’t hapeen with cochinita pibil. But they did the right way: pickled red onions, habanero, achiote-pasted roast pork. It wasn’t one of those bizarre interpretations of a foreign dish you see often when traveling. Somebody actually did their research here.

It’s interesting, because when I left Budapest in 2003, more and more Mexican products started showing up at specialty stores. Like the next time I visited in 2005, you could buy masa harina, various dried whole red peppers, canned tomatillos, and even canned huitlacoche (!) at Culinaris (one of the specialty stores.) When I lived there, I had to bring all those with me from my visits back to the States. It’s interesting how support for that cuisine developed.

The fish (usu. from Lake Balaton) was surprisingly excellent.

We actually had one of the best Italian meals we’ve ever had there; in a little restaurant right off the river across from the Gellert Hill (between the two bridges that go to either side of the hill). We were not expecting that level of Italian food in Budapest.

Looks like Trattoria Toscana. Somehow, I’ve never eaten there (it’s been around since at least 1998, but I tended to avoid the riverside restaurants except when I had people visiting), but Budapest has always had a number of decent Italian restaurants.

Oh, and since this thread, I actually did post my Hungarian gulyas (soup) recipe over here, in case anyone is interested. It quickly goes over its origin and also lists all sorts of variations, but that’s a pretty standard version you’d find all over Hungary.