Hungarian goulash has a strong claim to fame. So strong that most people would recognise the name on the menu before the country on a map. Our awareness of East Europe might be low, but we can recognise that soupy thing.
If you’ve only had it in restaurants, you’re well justified in asking what the fuss is about. Who looks at the soup section? How has Bangalore managed to turn this wonderfully hearty meal into a non-entity on its menus?
Which brings me to point one. Goulash doesn’t belong in the soup section. It’s a meal. It’s the kind of meal hardy peasants, warriors and hunter-gatherers would eat. So, if you’re seeing a watery brown thing in a small bowl with a couple of pieces of beef playing Hide n Seek, you’re not eating goulash. You’re drinking brown soup.
Secondly, they serve it to you with two pale slices of garlic bread. Sliced bread, in quantities of two, is more of an insult than an accompaniment. Here’s an idea: Serve it with a mountain of mashed potatoes. Or a pile of macaroni (no veggies, please). Or a basket of bread.
Now, what makes a great goulash? The mystique is similar to that of a dum biriyani. It needs to be done slowly. Sure, there are faster ways to cook biryani, and some infidels might even cook the meat separately. But then we wouldn’t call it biryani, let alone dum biryani. If you’re tasting pre-cooked beef in aforesaid brown water with a few herbs thrown then, then, well, you’re eating something akin to scam biriyani.
Finally, why are you eating goulash in a restaurant anyway? This is how a goulash is made:
- Google recipe
- Buy lots of beer and collect friends
- Set up something like a tripod, hang a pot from it, light a fire below (outdoors, of course)
- Cook goulash for the next few hours. Use drunken friends to chop onions and keep the fire going. It is essential that the alcohol flows freely at this time.
- When no one is left standing, or swaying, your goulash is done. This takes approximately four hours. Plan for an epic afternoon nap.
Remember, goulash is not a soup. It’s more than a meal. It’s an experience. It’s something like a barbecue – a primal gathering of collective hunger and collaborative cooking. Don’t be misled by those anorexic fonts in menus. They’re just fooling you.