The Jew And The Carrot

Goulash by Any Name

By Katherine Martinelli

  • Print
  • Share Share
Katherine Martinelli

In Israel, goulash has become one of the many adopted comfort foods that make up the patchwork quilt of Israeli cuisine. It can be found in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite quarter, at many of the workingman-style eateries surrounding Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, and in people’s homes. But I have come to realize that in Israel goulash is simply the generic name for any manner of simple beef soup or stew, perfect for surviving the winter.

Goulash is typically associated with Hungary — and rightly so. “There is only one goulash soup and this is the Hungarian one,” explains Ofer Vardi author of “Going Paprikash”. Traditional Hungarian goulash is a simple but flavorful soup of beef, onions, tomatoes, peppers, beef broth, and paprika that is simmered until the beef is fall-apart tender. It is hearty and comforting, full of rich beef flavor.

The dish has humble roots as a basic peasant dish, but somewhere along the line became a symbol of Hungarian nationalism. “Some time in the 18th century, “ recounts Vardi in his cookbook, “as Hungarian nationalism began to arise, the steamy soup was discovered by the urban aristocracy who transformed it into a symbol of national pride.”

When many Hungarian Jews fled to Israel after World War II, like Vardi’s grandmother, they brought dishes like goulash with them. Today when you go to the butcher or supermarket for stew meat, you ask for goulash, the colloquial name for any cut of stew beef. Vardi believes that this is partially what accounts for the habit of calling all beef soups and stews goulash.

Liz Steinberg of the popular Anglo-Israeli food blog Café Liz and JCarrot contributor has another theory: “They call it goulash only because it’s a reference point that most people understand.” So indeed “the goulash in the Yemenite quarter is 100% Yemenite.” Cookbook author and Jewish food authority Faye Levy confirms that while it may be called goulash in restaurants, “My parents-in-law were Yemenite and never called it goulash. They just called it ‘soup’ because that was the daily soup, usually for lunch.”

The truth is that Yemenite beef soup and Hungarian goulash aren’t that disparate. The main difference lies in the seasoning. Hungarian goulash gets its flavor profile and rich color from paprika, the ubiquitous national spice made from dried red peppers. Its Yemenite counterpart, meanwhile, is flavored with a spice mix called hawayij marak, which is made up of cumin, turmeric, black pepper, and sometimes cardamom and cilantro.

Both soups have regional and personal variations. Vardi says that some places add mushrooms, cabbage or other vegetables. Levy notes that with Yemenite beef soup “some people thicken it with flour but I usually don’t. At home I like to add extra veggies [like] zucchini, carrots, turnips — but it’s not ‘authentic.’”

Here, then, are Levy and Vardi’s two takes on beef soup. You can decide for yourself which one calls out to you, and what adjustments you will make to personalize it. In the end it doesn’t matter whether you call it Hungarian goulash, Yemenite beef soup, or simply soup. Both the Yemenite and Hungarian versions — as well as the countless variations — represent a snippet of International Jewish culture and, now, Israeli cuisine.

Yemenite Beef Soup

Makes 8 first-course or 4 to 6 main-course servings

2 tablespoons ground cumin (preferably fresh ground)
2 teaspoons turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2½ to 3 pounds meaty beef bones, such as shank bones
1 large onion
2 ripe, medium tomatoes, or 4 plum tomatoes
About 2 quarts boiling water
4 to 6 fairly small boiling potatoes, peeled (optional)

1) Mix cumin, turmeric, and black pepper.

2) Put beef shanks in a large heavy casserole and heat over low heat. Sprinkle with salt and spice mixture and heat over low heat about 7 minutes, turning pieces occasionally so they are well coated with spices.

3) Cut a deep X in the onion and in each tomato and add whole to casserole pot.

4) Add boiling water to cover, pouring it along side of casserole so spices are not washed off shank bones.

5) Add potatoes, push them into liquid, and add more water if necessary so they are covered.

6) Bring to a boil, then skim foam from surface. Cover and cook over low heat 3 to 4 hours or until soup is well flavored. (Soup can be kept, covered, for 3 days in the refrigerator.)

7) Skim excess fat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot, in shallow bowls.

Recipe by Faye Levy, from “Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook”

Bograch Guyash (Bográcgulyás, or Hungarian Goulash)

Makes 4 servings

1 pound 2 ounces (1/2 kilo) beef shoulder or shin, cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 green pepper, cut into cubes
1 tomato, peeled and cut into cubes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 generous teaspoon of sweet paprika
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon caraway

1) In a large pot, fry onions in oil until translucent. Remove pot from heat and add paprika.

2) Return pot to heat and add ½ cup water so that the contents do not burn and the onion absorbs the flavor of the paprika. Stir while adding caraway seeds and meat.

3) Brown meat on all sides while continuing to stir. Add remaining water to pot, then tomato and pepper. Salt to taste and cook until the meat is almost done, 2 to 3 hours. Skim the scum that rises to the surface of the soup occasionally during the cooking process.

4) Add potatoes and carrots. Cook covered on low heat until the meat is soft and the potatoes are cooked, about 20 minutes.

Serve hot.

Recipe by Ofer Vardi, from Cooking Paprikash

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Goulash Recipe, Going Paprikash, Goulash

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.