When the Communist regime was toppled in Central Europe at the turn of 1980s and 1990s, our borders opened both ways, so we could not only travel to the ‘western paradise’, but also had the first English-speaking tourists coming to Slovakia (part of Czechoslovakia at the time).
When asked about our national dish, we found it quite difficult to explain what Halušky s bryndzou was, so the first attempts at describing the dish in English went like this: It’s sort of small potato dumplings covered in bryndza cheese (another very Slovak ingredient) and topped with fried bacon pieces.
With more foreigners sampling the dish and returning to the country (not only for halušky), the Slovak word got its English transcription, and that’s how these small dumplings are now called by their non-Slovak fans.
When talking about ‘halushki’, I often refer to them as traditional Slovak pasta, because they’ve been an essential part of our cuisine for centuries. Some people liken them to German spätzle or Hungarian galuska, and indeed they look very similar, which only proves how easily cooking ideas travelled across the borders in the past.
To make potato halushki, you will need:
- pasta flour (when in Slovakia, look for hrubá múka, which translates as coarse flour)
- grated raw potatoes
- a pinch of salt
- egg (optional)
For the exact measurements and instructions, go to specific recipes, e.g. Strapatchki.
The easiest and quickest way to make those funny little dumplings is to push the potato dough through a halushki-maker, like in the photo below:Halushki-makers come in different shapes, sizes and materials. I’m sure you can buy one in Hungary, Germany, Austria or even Switzerland. If not, come to Slovakia.
Or do it like most Slovaks who live and work abroad. Although this method is more laborious, it’s also more fun. All you need is a knife or a teaspoon, a small wooden board and some skill which, of course, comes with practice. So let’s start:
Halushki can serve several purposes. In Slovak cuisine, they may replace noodles in soups, or accompany meat in main dishes, like in the Braised Rabbit Thighs with Bear Garlic and Halushki. In this case, grated raw potatoes are left out, but the egg is essential, and you can add herbs of your own choice to the dough to give it more flavour or an extra kick.
My grandma used to make halushki for a Sunday soup from chicken livers. She mashed them with a fork, added some flour and eggs, a pinch of salt and a few sprigs of chopped parsley, and off they went to the boiling water.