In Mumbai or in Budapest, Kunal Vijayakar cannot resist a good plate of eggs. He waxes eloquent on the letcho. Try making it this weekend?
This column comes hot off the press. This statement has two wonderful meanings: first is that I have just gotten off a flight from Hungary and the Czech Republic, so I am writing this piece hot and fresh. And second is the thing I write about, hot off the pan, a Hungarian delight called letcho. The letcho I discovered was made with eggs. Eggs that may sound different but are just happy avatars of our favourite omelette or scrambled eggs, with some spice. I’ll tell you how this happened.
Let me start on a warm and sunny Budapest morning. Breakfast was included in my room package, so I stepped out of my room in shorts and took the elevator towards the buffet area. The queue was too long, especially on a slightly hung-over morning. Three Indian families (they are everywhere) were demanding a south Indian breakfast off a Hungarian-speaking trainee who was flummoxed. After three attempts to reach the coffee pot, I gave up and stepped out of the hotel onto Váci Utca, Budapest’s main shopping and eating street. This lane is full of shops, cafés, ice cream parlours, pubs, restaurants, boutiques, departmental stores, and shady massage parlours. It was early and I stepped into the first café that seemed open. I have to confess: the average woman working tables at any Budapest café is Miss Universe quality: extremely attractive, affectionate, and mildly flirtatious. So it’s always a pleasure to sit in one of these cafés, even if you are alone.
Apologies. I got carried away. I was famished, and a large breakfast was what I needed. On a board were pictures of what one could order for breakfast, with pictures of dishes enlarged 18x24 inches. I like this quality at places where the names of dishes are often difficult to decipher. The eggs benedict, the picture showed, came with four eggs. Nope. Too much hollandaise, I thought to myself. My stomach would churn. Heat and Hollandaise, not a great combination, I argued. Scrambled eggs? Never. I hate anyone making scrambled eggs. I seriously believe no one can make them creamy and soft. Not a single 5-star hotel or restaurant gets the dish right. Only once have I managed to find really creamy and soft scrambled eggs in London at Fortnum & Masons (check them out on the web). As I decided to give the scrambled eggs a miss, I spotted something called letcho. It looked big, spicy, and filling. So I ordered a plate.
The dish came in an oval tray accompanied with sliced sausages, tomatoes and French fries. It was a scramble of sorts or was it a shredded omelette? I think it was bit of both. I could recognise tomatoes, peppers and onions and some cheese. I dug into it voraciously and experienced the sweetest taste of Hungarian paprika. Hungarians use sweet paprika in most of their cooking, and I believe every time they see an Indian customer, they plonk a jar of hot paprika in front of him. They did the same for me.
The letcho was like a full meal. It also had sautéed potatoes, along with brown fried onions and stirred chunks of tomato and peppers. The paprika was sweet and that extra teaspoon from the hot jar gave it a kick that took care of my hunger, as well as the hangover.
What a way to kickstart a trip that was going to be full of goulash and goose liver.
Author and TV show host Vijayakar is “always hungry”. He tweets as @kunalvijayakar