These ‘langoşi’ fried breads are so much part of our Romanian street food tradition, that very few people shout about them. Maybe they seem too modest or simple, but to me, they are nothing of the sort. They are a piece of history.
Centuries of Ottoman occupation of southern and eastern Romania brought with them a variety of dishes, from stuffed vegetables and pilafs to filo pastry pies, strudels and flat breads. Pita, langoşi (Hungarian name), turte or scovergi, these fried breads used to be made with any left over dough on the days when bread was made by the women in the village.
After working from the early hours of the morning, the women used to fry bits of bread and eat them plain or topped with ‘smântână’ sour cream and cascaval cheese. Dipping their fingers in oil, they pushed the leavened dough gently from the middle towards the edges, forming a thicker crust. This is why some people call the breads ‘the ancestors of pizza’. And it’s true. Even in Italy, on the streets of Napoli, we can buy fried pizza and it’s similar to our langoşi.
There are a few varieties, depending on the bread dough, including potato langoşi or milk langoşi. Some of them can be stuffed breads, instead of topped, and the stuffing is traditionally ricotta and dill, wild garlic, or meat and mushrooms. They can also be filled with jam and recently I’ve seen with chocolate, but for the die-harders like me, the true ‘langoşi’ can only be savoury. If someone wants jam, they should buy doughnuts or ‘papanaşi’.
As I’m writing this post in spring, wild garlic starts to appear again on the river banks or shady, muggy sides of gullies. So I’ll be giving you the recipe for wild garlic langoşi with a sprinkle of grated cheese. They are that sort of robust snack needed to see you through the day, and just gooey enough to make you reach for another one.
At home, we all used to huddle together in our tiny kitchen and eat these flatbreads warm, while mum was making them.
The recipe makes 4 large (20cm diameter) breads
4o0g plain flour (or 300g plain, 100g wholemeal)
300ml water (or milk)
7g dried yeast
5-6 leaves of wild garlic, chopped
Mix all the ingredients together apart from the wild garlic and knead for 2-3 minutes by hand. Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes, then knead again for another 5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and flatten it with your fingers. Add the chopped garlic and gently fold the dough and knead for a few more minutes. Divide into 4 balls, cover and allow to prove for another 30 minutes.
Note: If you want to fill them with cheese, you will have to flatten each dough again after you divide them, put a tablespoon of grated cheese in the middle, bring the edges together in the middle and form a ball again.
Cover the bottom of a frying pan with a thick layer of cooking oil and heat well. Turn the heat down to medium.
In the meantime, oil your hands and work surface and taking one dough, gently push the middle towards the edges with your fingers. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round, so don’t worry about it. Try to make it thiner in the middle and leave the edges thicker, spreading them to form a 20cm diameter round flatbread.
Fry one by one or in pairs, so you can keep the oil temperature relatively constant. They don’t need more than 3 minutes on each side. Serve them warm with a sprinkle of grated cheese and a teaspoon of sour cream.