PORTLAND HAS Shreveport, Louisiana, to thank for its only Hungarian food cart.
That’s where Hungaricana chef and co-owner Olga Surin-Brewer met her husband Jason as a high school foreign exchange student. Surin-Brewer returned to Hungary, but the two kept in touch, and eventually fell in love. They met up in New York, got engaged in the Dominican Republic, and settled here in Portland.
Now there’s a little white-and-red trailer on North Killingsworth that’s slinging Hungarian comfort and street food to transplants nostalgic for home and those lucky enough to hear about it. Hungarian cuisine isn’t well known in these parts, and Surin-Brewer is hoping to change that.
“I’ve been living here for over three years and haven’t found any Hungarian restaurants in town,” Surin-Brewer says. “I’m a huge fan of the food I’m selling and really missed it. I thought it might be a niche market, and people would like my comfort food.”
The attraction to langosh, however, is probably universal. Langosh is a Hungarian deep-fried dough about the size of a plate and about as thick as naan, traditionally slathered in sour cream and cheddar cheese. Surin-Brewer says she tweaked the traditional recipe, which includes potato and milk, in order to make the bread vegan. The result is a light, crisp-on-the-edges wonder that even stayed pretty good in the fridge overnight.
At Hungaricana, there are traditional preparations, along with American-friendly flair. Surin-Brewer uses the langosh as the bread for a chicken schnitzel sandwich ($6—when was the last time a sandwich was $6 around here?!). The idea could easily wind up a gut bomb, with fried bread and fried chicken, but the fry on each is light, and the lettuce and secret sauce keep it fresh. It’s not overly large, but it’s certainly going to get you through the afternoon.
“People don’t know my food—they see it and go right to the Mexican cart,” Surin-Brewer explains. “They’re hesitant to try it, but whenever I make it as a sandwich, people are more eager. Then after trying it they’ll come back. It’s got an American twist.”
I also dug the langosh with chicken paprikash and sweet pickles ($7), and one called Tyler’s Favorite, with lettuce, a fried egg, cheese, and a tangy secret sauce for just $5. It’s probably best to also throw in a small round of langosh with Nutella for $3—after all, your entire bill is still under $10.
Most of Hungaricana’s food focuses on that excellent fry bread, but as the weather grows drearier, it would be a mistake to ignore the goulash ($6), which Surin- Brewer rightfully puts at the top of her menu as her signature dish. It’s red with the country’s favorite spice, paprika, and generously filled with beef, bacon, kidney beans, thick-cut carrots, onions, and potatoes. It’s the perfect anecdote to a snowy day in Budapest—or a rainy ass one in Portland.
“That’s a family recipe; it comes from my mom,” says Surin-Brewer, who grew up in a country village called Törtel, about 50 miles away from the capital. “The secret is it’s cooked in a slow cooker overnight in the cart. That’s what makes the meat really tender.”
Business has been slowing down since the weather turned, and Surin-Brewer says she’s considering closing the cart in late November or December for the winter—so get your fry bread and goulash now.
1331 N Killingsworth, Mon-Sat noon-7 pm. Order ahead for pickup at whatthetrucks.com