When meeting with my friend Michael Berkowits recently, he served me his favorite recipe for Chicken Paprikash over small egg noodle dumplings known as nokedli (in some regions they are called spätzle). Michael grew up in Transylvania (what is now the central part of Romania, and was once part of Hungary). Because of his background, many of his family recipes have a Hungarian influence. These dumplings are a popular and beloved starch in many Eastern European countries. They are surprisingly easy to make and very tasty.
As Michael described how to make the dumplings, he showed me an old kitchen tool he’s had for close to 50 years– he called it a “nokedli maker.” It is more widely known as a spätzle maker. This tool is used for pushing the nokedli batter into the boiling water. I didn’t have one at home, so I used a metal cheese grater, which worked well. I recommend using a grater or spätzle maker (which I just ordered!) rather than the alternative method of spooning small amounts of batter into the boiling water, which takes a lot of time and can produced overcooked nokedli if you’re not careful.
Michael’s instructions were kind of vague on the nokedli– make a batter of 2 cups of flour, 2 eggs, water and salt, then boil in salted water. After some experimentation, I found that the following combination worked best and produced the same texture of nokedli that he served me at his home. I find them very tasty and homey, a comforting dish that can be made in 15 minutes or less. Try them fried in butter and topped with parsley, or serve them with your favorite stew or a saucy braised dish. Enjoy!
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- Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Beat the eggs and tepid water together with the salt.
- Slowly beat in the flour 1/4 cupful at a time to make a soft, sticky dough (you may not need all the flour, or you may need more-- stop adding flour when the texture of the batter is soft and pliable). Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. Beat the mixture again.
- Push 1/3 of the batter through a spaetzle maker, cheese grater or pasta strainer over the pot of salted water to create small egg noodle bits that drop into the boiling water.
- Let the noodles cook for about 3 minutes until they float to the top of the pot and are cooked tender all the way through.
- Remove from water with a slotted spoon or small mesh strainer and drain in a colander. Repeat the process two more times with the remaining two thirds of the batter.
- Serve warm. You can toss them in melted butter, fry them a bit, and sprinkle with fresh parsley (this would make it a dairy dish). Or, you can serve them with your favorite Hungarian-style stew or dish. Goes great with chicken paprikash.