A strange thing has happened to Hungarian gulyas. According to a 1969 Gallup Poll, gulyas is one of the five most popular meat dishes on the American cooking scene. Of course, what is usually served under this name shouldn’t happen to a Rumanian. The origin of the soup, as you’ve read in the beginning of our story, can be traced back to the ninth century-shepherds cut their meat into cubes, cooked it with onion in a heavy iron kettle (bogrács) and slowly stewed the dish until all the liquid evaporated. They dried the remnants in the sun (probably on their sheepskin capes), and then put the dried food in a bag made of the sheep’s stomach. Whenever they wanted food, they took out a piece of the dried meat, added some water and reheated it. With a lot of liquid, it became a gulyas soup (gulyásleves); if less liquid was added, it became gulyas meat (gulyáshús). Even today this distinction exists, probably to mystify foreigners and foreign cookbook writers.

The more parts of beef and beef innards are used, the better the gulyas will be. Of course, lard and bacon (either one or both) and chopped onion are absolute musts, just as you will find they are in the other three dishes.

Never use any flour. Never use any other spice besides caraway. Never Frenchify it with wine. Never Germanize it with brown sauce. Never put in any other garniture besides diced potatoes or galuska. But many variations are possible—you may use fresh tomatoes or tomato purée, garlic, sliced green peppers, hot cherry peppers to make it very spicy, and so on.

An interesting technique was suggested by Mrs. Mariska Vizváry and originally published in the early 1930’s. She added grated raw potatoes in the very beginning, presumably to give body to the soup, and she cooked bones and vegetables separately to make a strong broth with which to strengthen the gulyás soup at the very end.