Hungary is not the first destination that comes to mind for most people setting off on a grand European adventure, but we had family in Hungary, so that’s where we touched down. One of the first things we did, once we had dropped our bags at the Budapest apartment, was to head to the local lángos stand. Our relatives assured us that we wouldn’t really understand Hungary until we understood lángos.
Lángos is traditionally a peasant food. Some say that it was introduced to Hungary by the Turks during the occupation of Hungary, but Hungarians prefer to think of it as quintessentially Hungarian. It is a yeast-raised dough, deep fried in oil, and served with lashings of garlic, sour cream and shredded cheese.
Some people have it with just garlic, while others add raw onion, cooked bacon, and other modern variations. We were assured that garlic, sour cream and shredded cheese is the traditional lángos.
We don’t normally eat much deep-fried food, so we were a bit apprehensive about the lángos. Indeed, the first time we ate it, we noticed the oiliness of the crisp outer crust, and the way the paper underneath became translucent as it soaked with oil.
It was also incredibly filling, as is most peasant food in places where it snows.
It tasted good, though. Lángos is traditionally a breakfast food, made on the day that more bread is being baked, so we decided to give it another try first thing in the morning.
Our opportunity came when we visited a branch of the family in Szeged, who lived just a few streets from the market square. An early start, a brisk walk, and we were hungry and primed for lángos!
And the Szeged market square did not disappoint.
This lángos was even better than the previous one – fresh, hot, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, with lashings of garlic, and the obligatory sour cream and shredded cheese, melting on the hot, crispy crust.
It was heavenly!
Our final understanding of lángos, though, would bide its time, and descend upon us at Lake Balaton, also known as Hungary’s Sea. In the summer time, thousands of people from all over Europe crowd the shores of Lake Balaton, soaking up the sun, swimming in the fresh water, and buying street food from seasonal vendors on the promenades.
It was late in the afternoon, and we had been swimming and sunning ourselves for a few hours, when our relatives announced that we were going to get lángos. Lángos? In the late afternoon?
Sure enough, a local stall was pumping out lángos by the dozen. It was quite a wait until ours arrived, and we were definitely hungry.
The smell alone was mouth-watering, but when we sank our teeth into the crusty outside, all became clear. Lángos fulfils all the taste needs that back home in Australia we meet with battered fish and chips. Hot, full of carbohydrates and rich oils, crispy and soft at the same time, melting in your mouth, yet sticking to your ribs for the rest of the evening.
Crunching on our lángos in the slowly fading twilight, we truly felt that we had understood the essence of the Hungarian love of lángos.
300 g all-purpose flour
7 g dried (instant) yeast
250 ml water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine yeast and flour in a bowl.
Dissolve salt in water, add to flour mixture, and work until smooth. If it remains sticky, add a little more flour.
When the dough no longer sticks to the bowl, set it in a warm place to rise.
When it has doubled in volume (30-40 min), divide into ten equal parts. Shape each part into a disc, very thin in the centre, and thicker around the outside. Let the discs rest for another 30 minutes.
Heat vegetable oil, fry on one side until golden brown, and then turn.
Add minced garlic, sour cream, and shredded cheese.
Eat as fresh and hot as possible!