Sour soup with smoked brain
In 2022, some members of our team traveled to Transylvania to attend a unique pop-up dinner at the salt mine of Parajd. That was the first time that our brain soup inspired by Pál Kövi was served. This intriguing, traditional Transylvanian dish belongs even on the table of modern fine dining restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, the name Pál Kövi might sound familiar to some, for being one of the most important figures of Hungarian-Transylvanian gastronomy. Born in Transylvania, Kövi emigrated to the US during the socialist era, where he became the owner of The Four Seasons restaurant in New York. He played an important role in organizing the “nouvelle cuisine” movement, which transformed the industry and set the stage for the fine dining we are all familiar with today. His work was not only important there and then: Kövi published his book titled Transylvanian Feast in 1980 after long years of research. The book is a collection of local recipes that have become the basis of Hungarian-Transylvanian cuisine to this day.
Sour brain soup
Sour soups have a wide range of varieties in Transylvania and Hungary. Making the soup sour can be done in different ways: by adding vinegar, fermented dairy products, or as we do it: with sour cabbage. Today, the brain as an ingredient is considered very unique, even though it used to be an everyday part of gastronomy. Using every part of the animals and not just the “nicer” bits, is very important for us at Salt.
The two pillars of our philosophy are sustainability and preserving traditions – two aspects perfectly blended into this dish. Meat used to be a rare delicacy. In simpler, less wealthy households, meat was only on the table on weekends or celebratory occasions. The industrialized agriculture of today made it possible for meat to be a cheap and readily available ingredient of gastronomy. However, this is not an approach that is sustainable in the long run. Both the planet and people are suffering from it, and most of the butchered animals are not used, resulting in a large amount of food waste. This is why it’s increasingly important for us to show elements to our guests that have been forgotten but used to be part of Hungarian cuisine such as offal, heart, brain, skin, or fish scales.
Words: Fruzsina Farkas