Photos by Conal Thomas

In the back of a red food trailer parked in the driveway of his Drimnagh home, Zoltan Gerber stretches dough. “The magic starts here,” he says, taking 200 grams of his homemade mix.

He works it for 30 seconds or so into a thin disc, dunks it into oil at 200°C for roughly a minute, then flips the dough as it bubbles and gradually crisps. After another minute or so to dry, his lángos are ready.

“These are everywhere in Hungary,” says Gerber. “But you have to know where to find them. It’s traditional market food.”

For the last two years, Gerber and his wife Nora have been helping to introduce them to other Dubliners, selling their lángos at markets from Howth to Dún Laoghaire.

Markets, Train Stations, and Baths

Born in Budapest, Gerber left Hungary for Germany in 1987 and spent 20 years there before moving to Ireland in 2007. As the years passed in Dublin, something was missing.

“Imagine you come to a different country. They have no clue about your local food,” says Gerber. “So you’re there for a couple of years and that’s fine but then you start to miss your old food.”

So Gerber started to make lángos. It’s available in most markets, train stations, public baths and beaches back in Budapest, he says. “In Hungary you can get it from 4am. This is magic food. No, really. This is the best hangover food.”

As recipes go, lángos may seem simple. But, as with many dough-based recipes, patience is paramount.

Gerber begins by taking flour, yeast, sugar, salt and water, mixing these with mashed potatoes to slightly soften the dough.

The key to good lángos, though, is hot oil. “Lángos should be outside crispy and inside soft,” says Gerber. “Like a fresh bread.”

The Toppings

Gerber lifts another lángos from the gas fryer, and props it sideways, allowing excess oil to drip off.

He serves it up on white chipper paper, and generously brushes the snack with fresh garlic in oil, a shake of salt, and cheese.

The crispy-soft dough is similar to focaccia, only lighter. The dish has a kick of garlic, and is easy to imagine as a late-night recharge or post-session stabiliser.

“The very traditional way to eat a lángos is just to put a little bit of garlic on top,” says Gerber. “The old-style people in Hungary have it only with garlic.”

The newer-style people have introduced toppings though. Cheese or sour cream. Or chocolate or cinnamon and sugar for those with a sweet tooth.

For carnivores, Gerber adds smoked bacon with fresh red onion. Each lángos costs between €3.50 and €6.

Often, Gerber offers traditional goulash stew or Hungarian sausage from his truck too, but it’s the lángos people opt for most often.

“You like it?” asks Nora, Gerber’s wife and the business’ namesake, who arrives from inside the house. She tucks into a fresh lángos topped with garlic and cheese for lunch.

When the couple first took their red trailer on the road they weren’t sure how they’d go down. Since then they’ve set up a regular slot in the Howth Market at weekends.

But for the next five weeks – starting Saturday 18 November – you’ll find Nora’s Lángos at the Dún Laoghaire Christmas Market, near the library.

“It has to be consumed quick, though,” says Gerber. “If it burns your mouth, that’s the best way.”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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