It was lunchtime and I just got a text from my mate Parksy with a picture of a food truck called The Hungarian Chimney.
"Cool where is that?"
"I'm coming now!"
I had a chicken curry cooking on the stove. The flame off was turned off, I put a lid on the pot, locked the house up and hooned down High Street. I had to see if it was true… has Hungary finally come to the northern suburbs?
When I got to Preston Markets, Parsky was already gone but the truck was still there, red like a fire engine next to the yellow sunbeams of the Cornutopia Taco Van. I marched straight up to the ordering window and was greeted by two lovely people with that oh so familiar Hungarian accent.
The man must have seen how frantic I was. I couldn’t even read the menu board. He kindly explained what was available – soup, chimney cakes and crepes.
I went with my guts and ordered a small goulash soup and a cheese crepe, but let’s be honest here. I actually ordered a real Hungarian gulyásleves (goo-jaash le-vesh) and a túrós palacsinta (too-rawsh pau-laun-chinta).
Gulyásleves was made by the cattle herders (gulya) while they’re taking care of the animals on the field. It was cooked in a big black pot suspended over a fire and usually contains paprika, potatoes, carrots and beef, but it can be made with other meat.
Túrós palacsinta just means crepes (palacsinta) stuffed with túró, which is a type of cheese called quark that is soft like cottage cheese or ricotta but tart like yoghurt. It is also used to fill strudels and slices.
Anyway, I got my little soup and my stuffed crepe, sat down and started nomming.
The soup was perfect. Chunks of soft potato, tender carrot and succulent beef in a warming broth. I used my complementary piece of bread to absorb some of the soup, and whatever was left was poured straight into my mouth from the container. It’s a rare thing in Melbourne to have real gulyásleves like this. Make the most of it, people!
I moved quickly onto the pancake. I feel so bad – I started eating it before I took a photo. When I was a kid, mum used to make these. We would fold them in half and eat the roll from both ends and the last mouthful would be the most flavourful. As you can see with my bite marks on either end that the times have not changed.
This rendition, despite having the same, familiar and delicious flavour, was a little different to my mum’s. The cheese was moister and dripped out through the cracks of the crepe. I think mum used to use ricotta because hers were drier, and she would also put in some crushed nuts. Some people put raisins in as well, or lemon zest. It doesn’t matter because it was fantastic. The crepe itself was thin but still light and subtly fluffy, and the filling was just enough to prevent the belly of the roll from splitting open prematurely. The light dusting of icing sugar really topped it off.
Afterwards, I went back to the ordering window for a quick chat and to let them know that I give their fare the giant tick of juganaut approval. I introduced myself and found out that the lovely pair in the truck are Sue and Les and they’ve been operating for about two months. I was saddened to hear that they used to do lángos, my favourite Hungarian food in the whole wide world, but the people of Preston Markets didn’t know what it was. They had to stop making it because no one had the balls to try it.
Lángos is basically yeasty pizza dough that is deep fried until puffy and golden. It is best eaten fresh, rubbed with garlic and topped with sour cream and cheese. Some people like to eat it with jam. It is so freaking good… I feel the urge to help the Hungarian Chimney show the people of Preston Markets and its surroundings how wonderful and delicious this snack is. If we build it, will you come?