Seven bowls of Goulash


I went to Budapest to discover how the Hungarians really ate their Goulash. It turns out, it’s not what you think it is. It’s much better than that. I hope you like the film.

Tim Halket’s Seven Bowls of Goulash from Tim Halket on Vimeo.

My thanks as always to my brilliant producer Juliet Baird, and Alan Deakins, and Finn McCleave.

An appetite for Goulash

Just got back yesterday from a couple of nights inBudapest. What a place!

I went to shoot a little film about Goulash, trying to find the essence of the dish, to find out how they cook it. It often happens that an English-language cookbook version of a meal will be wildly different from any authentic local version. And I certainly found this to be true. Without giving anything away, I promise you that the six bowls I was filmed eating, were significantly different. Similar, obviously, but clearly different to varying degrees.

I had three different bowls of Goulash in the morning – breakfast, elevenses and ten-twenty-fives, all upstairs at the Central Market. There’s a row of little food stalls all selling simple, brilliant, inexpensive food. You take your bowl of soup and sit perched at a bar on a stool overlooking the market. Lunch was goulash in a tiny neighbourhood restaurant, crowded with local pensioners getting an inexpensive hot meal, or working-men eating huge platefuls of stewed meat, cabbage and potatoes. Tea-time, and I was the scruffy odd-one-out eating goulash in The New York Café; an utterly extravagant froth of renaissance and baroque gilded plasterwork with marble columns and floors. Cherubs frolicked across the ceiling as I ate. Dinner was Goulash at the director’s favouriteBudapesthangout – The Calgary Bar. It’s a tiny place, the walls crammed with objects and curios. Viky, the owner, former model and reputed beauty-queen, had made the goulash herself. Just as we were about to start filming, a piano player she had arranged walked in. Completely unexpected by us, and straight out of a casting director’s dream, he played everything we asked for – from Hungarian Folk to Tom Jones. It’s just that kind of place.

I haven’t got a recipe for goulash yet. I went with the intention of trying out as many as I could in one day. Seeing what I could learn from them, glean some little special details, taste them, and form an opinion. Looking back now, they all had something to teach me. That’s how good food-writing starts, I hope. I’ll begin cooking and writing early next week, assuming I have the appetite for another bowlful by then.