Noodles originated in Asia, but don't tell a Magyar that. Hungarian egg noodles, or Magyar tojasos teszta (MAW-joy toy-YAH-sohss TAYSS-taw) or metelt (MEH-tel-it), are an important part of the cuisine. And the sheer number of shapes probably can only be rivaled by Italian pasta. Hungarians cut them, pinch them, grate them, drop them and roll them.
Teszta is actually the Hungarian word for "dough" and metelt means "noodles," but they are used interchangeably. When the word tojasos is added, we're talking about egg noodles, the pride of Hungarian cuisine. No water or oil is added to authentic Hungarian noodle recipes. They are made with three simple ingredients -- flour, eggs, and salt -- and, in some kitchens, not even any salt. Many cooks feel the addition of water creates longer drying time and increases the potential for the noodles to mold when stored.
See how noodles are made at Holy Trinity Hungarian Church in East Chicago, Ind.
Shapes of Hungarian Noodles
Here are some of the most popular shapes of Hungarian noodles, all made from the same basic Hungarian egg noodle dough. The only one that uses a slightly different dough is the tarhonya or Hungarian egg barley dough.
- Betû: (BEH-too) Alphabet-shaped noodles.
- Cérnametélt: (SEER-naw-meh-tel-it) Extra-fine noodles, literally thread noodles.
- Copfocska: (CHOOP-fohch-kaw) Twisted tails or pig tail noodles.
- Csiga: (CHEE-gaw) Snail or shell-shaped noodles made on special csiga boards (available from Otto's Hungarian Import Store and Deli). Chicken soup with csiga noodles was traditionally served at old country weddings because the csigas were believed to have fertility-inducing properties. Much like quilting bees in America, women in rural villages of Hungary get together and turn csiga-making into a social event. Many hands make light work and set in a store of noodles that will last throughout the year. Here's a photo of Hungarian csiga noodles being made.
- Csuszedli: (CHOO-sed-lee) Broad noodles or long, wide noodles.
- Fodros Nagykocka: (FOH-drrosh NAW-gee KOHCH-kaw) Frilly, large square noodles.
- Kaposztás: (KAH-pohss-tawss) Large square noodles, literally "cabbage" because of its use with sauteed cabbage.
- Kiskocka: (KEESS-kohch-kaw) Small square noodles.
- Gyémánt: (GEE-mahnt) Small diamond-shaped noodles.
- Orsó: (OORR-soo) Spiral noodles similar to Italian rotini.
- Szarvacska: (SAWR-vawch-kaw) Little horn noodles similar to elbow macaroni (also the name for little twisted noodles).
- Tarhonya: (TAH-rawn-yaw) Tarhonya is a hand-grated noodle also known as egg barley. According to Otto's Hungarian Import Store and Deli, "... tarhonya dates back to the nomadic Magyar tribes. The Magyars carried ample supplies on their long rides across the Hungarian plains. This dried noodle occupied little space and (was) quickly prepared into a hardy (sic) meal over an open fire ... ." Tarhonya can be cooked in broth or treated like rice, barley or any other grain. Make browned egg barley or Piritott Tarhonya.
- Virag: (WEE-rrahg) Flower-shaped noodles.