Egg noodles. You can’t go wrong. Kids love ’em. Put something with a cream sauce and you’re ready to go. Well, get this. Hungarians put poppy seeds and sugar on them. Or ground walnuts and sugar. Or sauteed cabbage and sugar. Can you believe it? Read on for more about these, and about the one egg noodle invention that really is worth trying (No. 5)…
4. These egg noodle concoctions are called mákos tészta, diós tészta and káposztás tészta, respectively, and are hugely popular at preschools all over Hungary. Grownups order them at cafeteria-style eateries where they like to indulge in such nostalgic dishes. Apparently it’s another way for Hungarians to claim they’re eating a healthy main dish when it’s actually a dessert. (Hungarians primarily do this with palacsinta, crepes, which are considered a perfectly good main dish after soup in many households.)
I must make a slight exception for káposztás tészta, the cabbage one. This is often prepared with salt instead of sugar, and lots and lots of ground black pepper. After the finely chopped, sautéed cabbage is tossed with the noodles, many cooks sauté it further to get a crispy, browned effect on both. Now THAT is one Hungarian noodle dish worth trying. The other one follows…
5. Túrós csusza is one of Hungary’s culinary wonders, although it still qualifies for the Weird list in my book. This is the same egg noodles, tossed with sautéed bacon and then topped with a mixture of sour cream and túró (cottage cheese). When I say sautéed bacon, however, I mean just the fatty part, which of course is a delicacy here. It does fry up into a nice greasy pool of, well, grease, with crispy bits of fat floating around. It’s important to dump the whole thing into the pasta – no skimming off the fat, otherwise you’ll have missed the point! The melted fat makes the pasta slippery, hence the name, from the verb “csúszni,” to slip. It also makes it sufficiently salty, offset by the tangy-lumpy sour cream and túró. Fantastic.
I often put fresh ground pepper on mine, but don’t tell Hungarians – apparently this is just not done. I also had the Szeged version once, with sauteed kolbász (paprika sausage) and that was scrumptious too.
I attempted to make túrós csusza in the US once. They have egg noodles, bacon, sour cream and cottage cheese, right? Well, the egg noodles were fine. But the bacon was not fatty enough, the sour cream was also low-fat compared with the Hungarian, and the cottage cheese? Well, you can probably guess that it was a poor substitute to the Hungarian. That goes for all American dairy products – no flavor at all, compared with the lovely milk and yogurt in this part of the world!
Anyway, túrós csusza was a complete flop in Michigan. Needless to say, I haven’t tried to introduce the poppy seed and walnut versions in the US either, because I just can’t wrap my brain around putting sugar on noodles. Can you?
A link to my previous posts on weird Hungarian foods: https://adriknows.com/2012/04/18/top-weird-hungarian-foods-to-try-or-not-part-ii/ and https://adriknows.com/2012/04/16/top-weird-hungarian-foods-to-try-or-not-part-i/. Enjoy. Or not.