Make way for the Hungarian kurtos, or chimney cakes

Is it a chimney? Is it a cake? Well, it’s a pastry that looks like a miniature version of a chimney — slender, long and hollow. Kürtöskalács, or kurtos (if you want to eliminate the challenging pronunciation), is a delicacy from Hungary.

A popular street food sold on carts, it is often stuffed with a sweet or savoury filling. And now as it makes its way to Chennai, it even has an innovative and delicious butter chicken filling. Kurtos, a charming pink and pistachio green café started by Saira and Mohammed Shafi in Besant Nagar, offers around 11 varieties of this snack — three salads, four savouries and four classics.

Make way for the Hungarian kurtos, or chimney cakes

While most people return from holidays with extra luggage, their bags brimming with shopping, Saira came back from a vacation in Hungary with her head bustling with ideas. “I tried chimney cakes in Budapest. I particularly liked the ones with chocolate fillings; they were not like anything I had tried before,” says Saira. “The bread was amazing: crisp on the outside and soft inside. I knew I had to bring it to Chennai,” she smiles. It took her two years to sort out the process. After months of researching online and obsessing over it, Saira got in touch with Chef Harish Rao (former head chef at Avartana, ITC Grand Chola) and collaborated with him, for the technical and culinary aspect of it.

“Sometimes at 2 am I used to get reference images from Saira, saying ‘I saw this on Instagram, and I want it’,” laughs Rao, who curated the menu, concept and design for Kurtos. The team first tried assembling a machine with the help of a Gurugram-based company. But it conked off within a few weeks. The current one in use has been imported from Hungary and can make eight in a batch.

“We did a repertoire of 172 items. Then we short-listed a few, keeping practicality and also combinations that work for clients,” explains Rao. The ones that made it include mutton kheema, chilli chicken, murgh malai, mixed vegetable jalfrezi, butter paneer, teriyaki chicken, cinnamon sugar and Oreolicious among others.

Make way for the Hungarian kurtos, or chimney cakes

The process is fascinating to watch. The dough is rolled till it looks serpentine enough. It is then skilfully wound around the conical and cylindrical moulds, coated with oil and popped into the machine. In about three minutes it’s baked and turns a beautiful golden brown. “We coat some of the dessert varieties with sugar so it gets that crunchy caramelised texture,” explains Rao. The bread for the butter chicken has onion, capsicum and chillies so it tastes a bit like butter naan.

You can choose to bite into the kurtos or peel it as it unfurls layer by layer. But in the case of Textures of Chocolate, we dig into it with spoons. It’s overflowing with chocolate in all forms: ice creams, crunchy chocolate wafers, balls, sprinkles — the works, in a brownie crumb coated cone. And there’s no time to admire because the mound of ice cream melts and in its wake dislodges chunks of chocolate balls that roll down the table like pearls. Don’t be surprised if you have chocolate in your hair and ice cream on your nose. Quick, click a candid one for Instagram.

Kurtos is open from 3 pm. It is located at 8, Annai Velankanni, 4th Main Road, Besant Nagar. 9790909631

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2020 6:18:54 PM |

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