Since 1964, Balaton has served up authentic Hungarian cuisine in Cleveland, first in the Buckeye neighborhood and then in Shaker Square. Native Hungarian chef and co-owner Krisztina Ponti, her husband George and her sister Erika Johnson took over the eatery in 1996 and have carried on the popular spot’s traditional recipes such as chicken paprikash and Wiener schnitzel, while infusing the menu with newer offerings. “When I go back home and visit with [my colleagues], they let me peek into the kitchen and maybe learn something new,” says Ponti. The goulash is a heartwarming stew, beloved here and in Ponti's homeland. She shares her version below.
2 pounds lean beef, such as chuck, cut into 1-by-1 inch cubes
4 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 large or 2 small Spanish onions, cut into thin slices
4 tablespoons fresh Hungarian paprika
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 Holland peppers, sliced julienne
1 Hungarian banana pepper, seeds removed, diced
2 teaspoons salt
5 bay leaves
3 cups water
Heat the oil and saute onion until light brown. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Once cooled, mix in the paprika, garlic and salt. Add the meat, cover the pot and cook on low heat. Allow meat to cook in its own juice for 20 to 30 minutes, checking every 10. If the liquid evaporates, you may add a couple tablespoons of water, stir and cover. Thirty minutes into cooking, add the tomatoes, peppers, bay leaves and water, enough to cover the meat. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for up to 3 hours. If liquid evaporates, add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time.
2 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 dozen eggs, beaten
Mix all the ingredients together. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Using a tablespoon or speatzle maker, drop the mixture into the water. When dumplings rise to the top, remove them with a strainer. Serve with a touch of olive oil. Place speatzle on plate and top with goulash.
When You Go: Balaton Restaurant,13133 Shaker Square, Cleveland, 216-921-9691, balaton-restaurant.com