Western chefs and passionate foodies are always on the lookout for new, exciting flavors that can tantalize every single one of their senses in a single bite. Nevertheless, most of them rarely dare to explore the hidden gems of the Eastern European cuisine. Luckily, there are bright exceptions to this rule with Halusky being amongst the top of them.
Slovaks often describe this national and iconic dish as a zestier version of the Italian gnocchi. But, unlike its distant Mediterranean cousin, Halusky is served with sheep's cheese (Bryndza), and fried bacon snippets that are making matters more appetizing.
What Is Halusky?
Halusky, also known as Bryndzove Halusky, is a Slovak national dish that consists of potato dumplings combined with cheese sheep curds and fried bacon. In particular, this dish is an excellent representative of the Slovak gastronomy which is based mainly on flavors associated with milk and potatoes.
The Potato Dumplings
Preparing the potato dumplings is the first step to a yummy dish of Halusky. Just like gnocchi dough, Halusky potato dumplings consist of liquidized potatoes mixed with flour and (occasionally) eggs. Specifically, Slovaks liquidize potatoes by throwing them into a food processor or grating them by hand. Later on, they combine them with flour to absorb the moisture. As soon as this step is complete, they call for a unique cooking tool: the metal Halusky strainer. This tool is used to strain the potato dough through the holes and straight into a pot of boiling water.
Despite this cooking procedure being the most popular, Halusky's preparation may vary according to the region. In another favorite Halusky version, Slovaks add eggs to prevent the dough from being runny.
Bryndza is a type of sheep cheese produced mainly in Eastern Europe. Bryndza's flavor is somewhat tangy, and the cheese itself is soft, creamy and damp. Its odor is also adamant and for most people quite repulsive. Bryndza's smell is the usual reason why those who are not used to Halusky stay away from it. However, its intense flavor adds up substantially to the dumplings' mild and neutral taste.
According to the most popular version of Halusky, Slovaks top the cooked potato dumplings with a homemade Bryndza sauce. This “sauce” is thick and made of mashed Bryndza along with water where the potato dumplings were cooked.
The Bacon Bits
Smoked bacon is the ultimate choice for Halusky. Stripped of its rind and thinly diced, Slovaks fry pieces of smoked bacon before they sprinkle them on top of the potato dumplings. Fried bacon zests up the dish giving it a meat-like flavor that no one can resist to.
Annual Brynszove Halusky Festival
Turecka, central Slovakia, the year 1995. Locals decided to host a festival to pay tribute to Slovakia's iconic dish of Brynzove Halusky. The festival was such a success that ever since the municipality of Turecka has turned into a destination for Halusky enthusiasts during the second or third weekend of July annually. Specifically, the festival accommodates competitions that revolve around Halusky and gives the chance to local artists and bands to perform live and entertain the festival's visitors.
According to visitors, the festival's main attractions are its two Halusky-related competitions. The first one is a cooking and eating competition during which participants are asked to prepare and eat 3kg of Halusky as quickly as possible. The second one goes by the name “Thousand Tastes of Halusky”. During this competition, participants experiment with several ingredients such as cabbage and eggs and cook their versions of this Slovak traditional dish.
Adding bacon in a dish is a definite deal-breaker for vegetarians but who said that Halusky is a dish just for meat lovers? According to a vegan-friendly version, this dish can still taste great just by replacing bacon with vegetarian sausage or carrots and peas.
Serving Halusky With...
Halusky is one of those delicacies that is usually served as a side dish. Nevertheless, Slovaks tend to eat it as a main meal just by combining it with cooked or raw vegetables. It is also an excellent idea to serve Halusky with a fresh green salad. Last but not least, beer pairs very nicely with Halusky. The rich creaminess if this dish acts as the ideal contrast to the refreshing beer.