Hungry City By LIGAYA MISHAN
Lángos Truck Presents the Flavor of Hungary on Four Wheels
If you are Hungarian, lángos (pronounced LAHN-gauche) is the taste of summer, of days on lawns overlooking the 50-mile-long Lake Balaton, which those who live in the landlocked nation call the Hungarian Sea.
If you are not Hungarian, you might mistake lángos for a small under furnished pizza and bypass it in search of more ample pleasures. This would be a loss.
At the Lángos Truck, which docks weekdays for lunch at different corners of New York City (call or check the truck’s Twitter or Facebook feeds for details), the recipe begins with Idaho potatoes, boiled and mashed, to which milk, flour, sea salt and yeast are added. Milk brings softness, potatoes buoyancy. (In Hungarian, the full name for the potato version is krumplis lángos.) The resulting dough is wrapped in foil and left to rise on a warm shelf above the grill. When ready, it’s cut into rounds and quickly fried in canola oil.
And this is lángos: a rough disk of fried flat bread, midway in size between a 45-r.p.m. record and a Frisbee. It is knobby along the circumference and stretched out and cracker like toward the center. In its simplest form, with just a swab of crushed garlic and salt, sour cream and Medusa curls of Edam cheese, it’s startlingly light, resting in the hand as daintily as a halo.
Zsolt Prepuk, 39, a native of Budapest who started the Lángos Truck in April 2014, came to New York 16 years ago. He waited tables at La Goulue and Cipriani Wall Street (which may explain the truck’s unusually debonair service) before taking to the streets to convince New Yorkers that the snack of his youth is as essential to our sidewalks as pretzels and falafel.
On any given day, two or three varieties of lángos may be available: One is heaped with bell peppers in five colors, lending crunch but defusing much of the saltiness (and the thrill), another with cubes of pork tenderloin strewn among cornichons, jalapeños and an improbably helpful swirl of sriracha. Mr. Prepuk will improvise toppings on demand. But I never wanted more than the basic equation of garlic, sour cream and cheese.
Alongside lángos, Mr. Prepuk makes stuffed cabbage, sturdy bundles of ground pork and basmati rice with a prickling of paprika; and a főzelék, or near stew, of bright green peas. They are wintry in their comforts.
Recently, Mr. Prepuk added Mangolica pork to the menu in honor of the stout,woolly Hungarian pigs bred to feed Hapsburg emperors. (An image of the pig, looking frilly, adorns a corner of the truck.) The pigs fell out of favor after World War II — they take longer to mature, are costlier to raise and trickier to butcher than other breeds — and risked going the way of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until a Hungarian geneticist rescued them from extinction in the early ’90s. Now their lushly marbled meat is likened to Kobe beef.
Mr. Prepuk buys his Mangalica sausages from Mosefund Farm in New Jersey, which has also supplied restaurants like Eleven Madison Park. They are fat, creamy tubes of bratwurst, one with a stealthy subtext of bacon and Emmental, another with a low throb of beer wort. Each is barely contained by a chewy baguette-like bun, embellished with slaw. The price ($8) is four times the average hot dog’s; it should be.
There is one sausage more, laced with paprika as an ode to the famous kolbász of Debrecen, in eastern Hungary. It comes from a Hungarian meat market in Connecticut that once had a branch in Yorkville, on the Upper East Side, where thousands of Hungarian immigrants found a home in the early 20th century.
Some of this past remains, including a sign at 82nd Street and First Avenue, designating it King Stephen of Hungary Way. Mr. Prepuk lives across the river, in Astoria, Queens. But the Lángos Truck could be considered almost a Little Hungary unto itself: roaming the streets, proselytizing the power of lángos, its name blazoned on the truck in letters aflame.
Phone number is 646-286-9949, website : langostruck.comRecommended Dishes Traditional lángos with garlic, sour cream and cheese; Mangalica pork bratwurst sandwiches; Debrecen sausage sandwich. $6 to $10, cash only. Drinks and Wine None. Price $ (inexpensive). Open Lunch weekdays; some evenings and weekends for special events. Reservations No seating; takeout only. Wheelchair Access Food truck window is high, but food can be brought around to the sidewalk.