I knew nothing at all about Hungary before going to the Folklorama’s Hungary-Pannonia Pavilion on a friend’s recommendation.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people there as they helped me with this story and taught me about their culture. Details, pictures, stories…nothing was too much trouble. And they made it so much fun.
I walked in looking for something special to showcase about their culture and as the lady at the souvenir table said, “There are so many special things.”
What to write about? The beautiful earrings bought in a small Hungarian village known for its handcrafted earrings of felt and leather? Or “lángos” – somebody suggested lángos.
The Hungary-Pannonia Pavilion is famous for its lángos. So famous, they sell 300-400 pieces of it a day. The English translation is deep fried flatbread, but the translation doesn’t do justice to this Hungarian food speciality.
There was a lángos making covered cooking area out back of the pavilion with four people working hard to keep up with the demand.
It’s a potato bread and contains boiled mashed potato, flour, yeast and water. These are all mixed well together and then put in a five gallon pail to rise.
After letting it rise and punching it down a few times, the dough is formed into balls. These too have to rise. Finally, they stretch it out like a pizza and it’s deep fried.
“It’s a comfort food for us,” said Patricia Toth-Voros, one of the dancers. “It’s something my mum and my grandma made for us and I make it for my kids.”
Kitchen volunteer, Sean Bennett, added, “It’s got some good grease to it. We can’t get it anywhere else and it’s only once a year. Someone could make a fortune if they sold it on a food truck,” he mused.
When you eat lángos at the pavilion you’re faced with the sweet or savoury conundrum. Icing sugar or garlic powder? Seeing as it was my first lángos, I did half and half.
It’s wonderful; light, chewy and much more like a doughnut. It’s very typical Hungarian fare and if I ordered goulash or any of the dishes with sour cream, I’d be dipping my lángos in and eating it this way.
The pavilion is also known for a much more decadent dessert called, Dobos torte, or drum cake in the English translation.
Pronounced doboʃ], this five-layer Hungarian sponge cake dates back to the 1880s. It is named after its inventor, Hungarian confectioner József Dobos, whose goal was to create a cake that would last longer in an age when refrigeration was limited. The sides of the cake are coated with ground hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts or almonds; the caramel topping helps to prevent drying out.
Bridget Peterson is a volunteer who makes the drum cakes. It really is a labour of love as it’s a lot of work. It’s constructed of thin layers of cake separated by chocolate rum butter cream. The cake layers have to be baked separately which is very time consuming.
Tibor and Rose Boda were the adult ambassadors this year and they seemed to be everywhere at once and having a wonderful time at the pavilion just like everyone else I met. And of course they posed for a picture with the lángos.
If you didn’t get your fill of Hungarian treats this past week, lángos along with other delicacies will be available at Folklorama’s second Hungarian Pavilion – the Hungaria Pavilion, at St. James Civic Centre, 2055 Ness Avenue.