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Kitchen Kind #3
Ilona Topolcsanyi

Bread: Hobz biz zejt (Maltese sandwich)
and Langos (Hungarian Bread)

Ilona Topolcsanyi’s upbringing with a Hungarian father and Maltese mother has been anchored in love and good, traditional breads.  

Ilona Topolcsanyi
What meal or ingredient speaks of love to you and why?

Ilona Topolcsanyi’s Hungarian father and Maltese mother met at a bus stop at Tullamarine. 

It’s a story of chance, of overcoming nerves – Ilona says her mother had seen the man, who was to become her father, at the bus stop before. That morning she was running late and asked him whether her bus had already gone. 

Her father was so shy, he couldn’t speak, her mother thought, ‘what a snob!’

The next morning, he worked up the courage to say, ‘your bus hasn’t come yet,’ which struck up a conversation. 

Their story continues…and it has given Ilona a unique insight into the joy and connection something as simple as bread can bring. 

“The only thing that I would ever queue for is bread, it’s so universal, every culture and food tradition has their own version,” she says. “In terms of food, there is nothing in common in my parents’ heritage other than the fact they both have traditional breads.

Winter school holidays were spent with her Hungarian grandparents eating pigeon and chips cooked in lard.  The summers were spent in Portarlington at her Maltese grandparents holiday house, eating freshly caught grilled fish, salads and vegetables. 

We’d have Hobz biz zejt (a Maltese open sandwich) with really crusty bread with tomato paste, olives, parsley and tuna, I still love it. 

Hungarian’s have fried bread, called Langos and I love that, too. It’s like a pizza dough but then fried in lard and you put different toppings on it, garlic and salt are my favourite but it’s common to put sour cream and cheese on top.  You could say it borders on focaccia in its texture. It’s deep-fried like a doughnut and soft and doughy in the middle.

I have early school memories of looking forward to lunch – I didn’t like school much, but I loved lunch – and there was always bread as a part of school day. 

Bread is so fundamental to our daily lives; we break bread together. We sit down and enjoy each other’s company, it’s about peace-making and talking and gathering, it’s so universal.”

Ilona’s parents’ cultures have little crossover but are anchored in love, Hobz biz zejt and Langos. 

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