Sunday, January 9, 2011

Czech Recipe: Goulash (Guláš)

One Czech spouse. Check. One batch of freshly-made dumplings. Check. The only ingredient left for one cozy Czech evening is the guláš. Out of all the Czech dishes, guláš plays a special role in this country. Any pub worth its hospoda title is guaranteed to serve guláš. You know, I even feel confident enough to step that up a notch - any establishment whatsoever in this country serving food will have guláš on the menu (okay, okay, except pizzerias and kebab huts). Most pubs serve it on a mound of pillowy dumplings - around 4 slices or so. Some restaurants trying to distance themselves from traditional Czech food try to put a spin on it - like serving it in a big bread bowl with assorted garnishes on the side. Some places trying to tap into the rustic element will serve a venison guláš. Although, I'm told that since this is quite the money maker, some pubs advertise venison guláš, but it does not actually include any venison. (I've heard numerous stories of this same sort of affair, but dealing with horse sausage from the butcher. Apparently, some butchers of ill repute do not use horse meat...quite the scandal indeed!)

Guláš is such the culinary mainstay that (according to wikipedia) guláš was cooked by a legendary heroine in folklore to save her children. I'm not sure if guláš truly has any childsaving powers, but it does warm the soul like nothing else. Here is the first attempt I've made, compiled from a few different recipes - both modern magazines and a few Czech classics that've been translated.

Recipe: Czech Goulash (Guláš)

1 lb (500 g) beef, stew meat quality
1 big onion
2 Tb sweet paprika
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) beef broth
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp marjoram
pinch cinnamon

To serve:
dumplings or dark bread
cucumbers or spicy pickled peppers
beer (a nice Pilsner)

Prepare the meat in large cubes, marinate in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper for 30 minutes (or overnight), or not. I actually don't think it'd make much difference if you were to skip this, but I did it anyways. Slice the onions into very thin half circles and fry the meat and onions until the meat is browned. Add the paprika and coat the meat and onions well. Add the garlic, tomato paste, broth and spices. Simmer for awhile. One tradition suggests adding little pieces of 1 dark bread slice, and when the bread pieces have dissolved, the guláš is ready. I think I did mine for about 20 minutes.

Don't worry about making too much, the leftovers are are even better after the flavours have sat together for awhile. When cooking, add more or less broth and paprika to your liking.

Are you Czech? Have you made this dish before? Do you know any other versions? My attempt tasted pretty darn good, but not a guláš-y as the restaurants. I'm not exactly sure what the difference might be from. What about in Slovakia? Is guláš made the same?

Dobrou Chut'/ Enjoy!
-- Jo


  1. I made this tonight. I was very good, drank it with our Czech beer mugs filled with dark beer.

  2. Glad it worked for you! I have a pretty hard time eating guláš without a beer on the side. In Czech mugs too of course ;)


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