Lángos is for lovers: reviewing Wrapped by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra4 min read
As a home-chef and lover of street food, there has been no cookbook I’ve been more excited to buy than Wrapped: Crepes, Wraps, and Rolls from Around the World by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. Whether it’s gyros topped with fresh cucumber and tzatziki or shawarma on basically every street corner in Europe – meat and veggies wrapped in any kind of bread is my true love in life. Pagrach-Chandra’s cookbook brings the most beloved street food into your own home and is beautifully photographed, featuring wonderful recipes from all around the world.
Wrapped emphasizes mostly on India and Vietnam – two beloved street food destinations. The author reflects that her ancestors sailed from India generations ago, worked as laborers in the sugar industry in British Guiana, which led her to her happy upbringing and opportunity to be educated in Canada and Spain. Pagrach-Chandra lives in Holland with her Dutch husband. Her highest hope is that these recipes “brighten your home with splashes of color and flavor on dreary days” – and these recipes don’t disappoint.
Like many chefs, her heritage drives her cooking but also reveals the embedded food preparation and agriculture histories from the traditions of her cultural upbringing. I love cooking because it’s a conversation through ingredients over time and a direct connection with the history before you, often involving revealing how interlinked gastronomy, economy, politics, and human life are. It makes me very thankful to be able to cook in my kitchen with appreciation for recipes that come from practices that go back a millenia.
Hungarian street food
A recipe I was surprised to find in this book was for Hungarian Lángos. Pagrach-Chandra writes, “No visitor to Hungary and neighboring countries will fail to see the popular street snack called Lángos.” Lángos is made from yeasted dough and often topped with mashed potatoes for krumplis lángos. If it’s anything I love about European food it’s often starch inside of another starch (I’m looking at you, potato pelmeni).
Hungarian lángos usually comes with three iconic cut marks on top, which is a culinary feat that requires mastery only achieved from heating oil to the right temperature, the perfect tong-handling method to fry dough, and physics. Lángos does not overwhelm on sugar like American fried dough or doughnuts. Lángos contains yeast, unlike Native American frybread.
While I’ve never been to Hungary, I was undeniably hungry to try this recipe (sorry not sorry).
The first step is to mix flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and oil together and cover the ingredients with plastic wrap until it’s doubled in size. I used bread flour, though all-purpose flour is recommended for this recipe.
After the dough has risen, it gets divided into four equal parts and flattened. Given that the dough was so extremely sticky and prone to breaking, this was difficult. I used a silicone mat in addition to oiling my hands and the mat.
The recipe advises not stretching to the point of making any holes, though I was just trying to keep it all in one piece. A few mis-flips and half-turned lángos sticking to the side of my pan, it turned out beautifully.
Mine was more homey in that it wasn’t beautifully golden, fluffed to perfection only achieved from extreme deep-frying, but I was still happy with the result.
The recipe suggested garlic water, sour cream, or ham. I went with bacon and cheese.
It was buttery, soft, so and so delicious. The texture is similar to Central American papusas, though pupusas use cornmeal or rice flour instead. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to store and reheat the next day. It retains its fluff even days later.
The only regret is how little the recipe produced. Next time, I’ll double the recipe for eight, or triple it for twelve. I can’t wait to serve it at a gathering with a little buffet of toppings.
It’s a wrap!
Wrapped contains a multitude of recipes from all around the world. What I love the most is the introduction contains recipes that remain the foundation of everything else in the rest of the cookbook. That means, armed with flour and yeast, you can basically make anything in the book!
Flour tortillas, a basic yeast dough, coco bread, butter flaps, pocket breads, and roti wrappers are the first recipes in the book. A lot of these come from the Jamaican tradition, as unsurprisingly, Jamaican food is inspired by the many different types of people that have influenced its history.
You should buy this book for the fun, updated look of the cover and the close-up food photography. I look forward to revising the recipes in this book again and again. I think the next thing I’ll make is Sponge Pancakes and Cream Half Moons, even if I am late for Ramadan.
Book details: Pagrach-Chandra, Gaitri. Wrapped: Crepes, Wraps, and Rolls from Around the World, 2015. Interlink Publishing. It is available to buy here.