By Kate Vasicek Challis
I never had goulash before I went to the Czech Republic. It was a weird experience, then, that when I tried it for the first time, it actually tasted somewhat familiar. It's basically a comfort food - beef doused in a rich, hearty sauce. It's usually served with dumplings, or knedlíky (which tend to stay in your gut for hours and hours, like bricks! Beware, naive traveler!).
I have spent some time looking at recipes for goulash online and in the Czech recipe books that I found. Most of these were purchases from the Texas Czech Heritage Society. Honestly, I find them to be extremely challenging to recreate. Maybe now that I've actually tasted it, it won't be quite such a challenge, though?
It seems as though my great grandmothers - the ones who lived in Texas and spoke Czech - had to settle with less than ideal ingredients for their goulash, because the ingredients on all the recipes just vary so radically. It might even be a kind of... gumboesque dish, a catch all? Maybe? I'm trying to figure it out. This is a piece of my heritage that I don't understand because it didn't survive.
Do you have any ideas or advice about how to make the perfect goulash? What should it taste like? What is it really made of? And of course, where are your ancestors from? How much does this dish actually vary from region to region?