Tag Archives: Hungarian

April 17, 2010 – Hungarian Food in Los Angeles

17 Apr

10 am

2 strawberry Pop Tarts

1 glass of water

1:30 pm

Csardas Hungarian Restaurant

shared order of fried camembert

chicken paprika

diet Coke

“What did we get ourselves into?” Abigail asked when I met her at Csardas, a nondescript Hungarian restaurant on the corner of Melrose and Vine. And I could not answer her question. The restaurant was completely empty, fussily decorated in the classically ornate style that Hungarians prefer and Abigail sat for over 10 minutes by herself before anyone even acknowledged her existence. And that was only acknowledged because she walked up to the hostess to get her attention.

Budapest is a city that’ll knock you off your bearings for several days. It’s a sprawling metropolis, neatly vivisected by the Danube River, with a huge subway system that’s only convenient for half the city. People are initially gruff and aloof, and places open and close at odd hours. As we slowly settled into the city, we fell for the city’s firm grasp of history, their classical architecture, their love of sweets, and their cuisine in general. We’ve always talked about finding a Hungarian restaurant once we got back to LA, but the options are pretty slim. Hortobagy’s in Studio City was the only decent Hungarian option in LA for the longest time, but they closed three years ago and the chef moved on to Maximillian’s in North Hollywood, which is now the best Hungarian place in LA.  Outside of that, there’s really three options I know of, Transylvania Cafe in Hollywood which mostly serves burgers and a couple of Hungarian-Romanian dish with a painfully cheesy Dracula theme, the United Magyar House, which is actually a Hungarian community center that sells dinner (you get to eat with elderly Hungarians playing chess), and Csardas, the restaurant that I’ve driven by many times without any signs of life. But curiosity got the better of Abigail and I, so we made plans to meet for lunch.

Sure enough, the place was completely empty except for two gossipy Hungarian women. The interior design was appropriately fussy and old-fashion and the food, well, the food tasted like it was still cooked under the communist János Kádár era. The food was bland, indifferently prepared and the chicken was as cheap as you can get. The fried camembert was in fact, swiss cheese breaded and fried to a cement brick. The chicken paprika was decent, but it was only substantial because of the side of tasteless spaetzle. Even though I’m not Hungarian, I can confidently say that I could prepare a much better chicken paprika. But was the meal terrible? Not really. For better or for worse, it was authentically Hungarian and we got what we wanted, a chance to relive our time in Budapest. Csardas was nowhere close to some of the restaurants we tried in Budapest. But our waitress was both aloof and funny, the setting was weirdly posh and we good-naturedly complained about the lack of green vegetables outside of a parsley for garnish. Ah, memories.

7:30 pm

spaghetti marinara

2 glasses of water

10 pm

chocolate chip cookie

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Feb. 3, 2010

3 Feb

9:30 am

Oaks Gourmet

1 ham and cheese croissant

1 small cup of coffee

As I stated on yesterday’s post, my TV broke. It seems that all Samsung HDTV’s have a problem with capacitors wearing out quickly, and that prevents it from turning on. A TV repairman said a visit to diagnose the problem was $100, and repairs might cost an additional $300, so I politely told him to go shove a traffic cone up his ass. But thanks to the prevalence of Samsung’s glitch, there were several online instructions and youtube videos on how to replace a capacitor. If only they had the same instructions for Toyota accelerators. Even though I know little about electronics, and only heard of a capacitor from Doc Brown, I found this fix fairly easy.

The hardest part was finding the damn capacitors. I had to drive to three different stores and deep into the valley to find the proper ones. Samsung must be screwing a lot of people if that one 1,000 MF size is selling out. So if you own a Samsung HDTV, bookmark this video because you will get fucked eventually. Repairing it yourself will set you back around $25-$30 if you don’t own a soldering iron. That’s about $370 cheaper than paying someone. A couple of notes about this instructional: it doesn’t mention that there’s a positive and negative wire on the capacitor. When putting in the new capacitors, make sure the white stripe is aligned to the thick black mark on the circuit board. Also, his TV is only a year old. If your TV is older, like mine, removing the old solder will leave a bit more gunk. Don’t skip that last step in part two where he cleans his circuit board with alcohol, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, my TV works like new now. Real World: DC, you will get watched tonight.

12:30 pm

Subway

1 foot-long chicken breast sandwich on white

1 can of Diet Coke

5 pm

1 brownie

8:30 pm

chicken paprikash over egg noodles

2 glasses of Dry Creek zinfandel

1 can of Diet Pepsi

I went to Budapest this past summer and I naturally came back with paprika. It also sat unused on my pantry shelf for six months. Today, I ended up with four pounds of chicken breasts that I had no idea what to do with. Then I remembered my unused paprika and a delicious chicken paprikash dish that Abigail ate at a fancy restaurant we went to in Budapest. It was deconstructed, with foams made out of paprika, cream and parsley that was arranged in a pretty color scheme of the Hungarian flag. Since I don’t have the skills or CO2 canisters to make foams, so I couldn’t recreate that dish. I went with the more traditional route instead, though I should note that a proper Hungarian paprikash doesn’t have tomatoes or bell peppers. I used tomatoes because I liked the flavors, and bell peppers because they were in my fridge and had to be used soon. Also, I used olive oil instead of butter. I realize that I forced quite a bit of Italian touches into my Hungarian dish, just like Mussolini and World War II. On that note…

Chicken Paprikash recipe

– Cut two chicken breasts into 1″ pieces and season with salt and pepper.

– Combine flour, salt, pepper and enough paprika to tint it slightly pink. I prefer sweet paprika for this dish, but hot will work. Neither of them are actually that spicy. Hot means the peppers for the paprika were smoked, unlike sweet.

– Heat a stainless steel skillet with olive oil (not extra virgin, which has too low of a smoke point and will taste bitter if cooked too hard) or butter. Dredge the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, shake off excess, brown in the pan and reserve.

– Pour a bit more oil into the same pan and add two cloves chopped garlic and one diced onion. Season the onions, and sprinkle just enough paprika to coat the onions and sweat over medium-low heat. When onions are translucent, add one diced bell peppers and a handful of diced, peeled and seeded tomatoes (I splurge on San Marzano tomatoes and I think is worth the extra couple of dollars. You can eyeball the amount, depending on taste, and even add tomato paste if you want).

– Pour just enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Mix in thyme and cumin. I would’ve added marjoram too if I had that. Add back the cooked chicken pieces, simmer and reduce.

– Put a spoonful of sour cream in a bowl and season with a bit more paprika, salt and pepper. Take some of the cooking liquid and mix into the sour cream to raise it’s temperature. When the paprikash is partially reduced, stir in the sour cream. Tempering the sour cream keeps it from curdling in high heat, and the texture will be silkier.

– Once the sauce thickens (shouldn’t take longer than 15-20 minutes total), serve over egg noodles, which is traditional, or cooked rice. Season to taste. Put a dollop of sour cream on top. For an honest Hungarian paprikash, omit tomatoes and bell peppers.

I made enough for four servings, so I invited a friend over to share. My roommate broke out a $30 bottle of wine from a SAG Award gift basket and it was the perfect accompaniment.

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