“Krautfleckerln,” Cabbage & Noodles from Vienna: Friedrich Kantor-Berg’s (aka Torberg) Famous Character Tante Jolesch and Her Legendary Dish, of Which There Was Never Enough! (Recipe) #CabbagePasta #Haluski #KáposztásTészta #KrautPletzlach

Caramelized cabbage and noodles (Krautfleckerln)

 

Recipe: Caramelized Cabbage with Noodles — “Krautfleckerln.”

Friedrich Torberg, Tante Jolesch or the Decline of the West in Anecdotes Munich: DTV, 1975)
Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes by Friedrich Torberg. (Munich: DTV, 1975 / Translated by Maria Poglitsch Bauer, edited by Sonat Birnecker Hart. Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 2008)

Tante Jolesch (aunt Jolesch,  pronounced “Yollesh”) was admired for her Krautfleckerln, which is Viennese German for fried cabbage and noodles. In Yiddish, we’re talking about kraut lokshenkraut pletzlach, or pletzel. It is

that delicious pasta dish consisting of small dough squares and diced cabbage, spiced to be either sweet or savory. In the Hungarian half of the [Habsburg, Ed.] empire they were dusted with powdered sugar, while in the Austrian half they were seasoned with salt and pepper. Of all the masterworks, Krautfleckerln were Tante Jolesch’s most famous creation. 1

I emphasize that we should take the word “creation” literally in this context. This is the creation of a world, at the very least of a culinary world. What the author of these lines, Friedrich Torberg, is telling us, is that Krautfleckerln sautéed cabbage with noodles, THE Jewish Viennese food par excellence, was invented by Tante Jolesch. I barely exaggerate.

But who is Tante Jolesch?

The mostly fictitious Jewish Tante Jolesch was created in the 1970s with real pre-Shoah (the Murder of European Jewry) Jewish women like her in mind. She was conceived by a very famous local writer, Friedrich Kantor-Berg (1908-1979), who wrote under the pen name of Friedrich Torberg. Torberg also translated the work of his friend and literary celebrity, Hungarian-Israeli pen-man Ephraim Kishon, into German.

This is what Friedrich Torberg writes about Tante Jolesch in the foreword to his Tante Jolesch and The Decline of the West in Anecdotes:

Tante Jolesch […] did indeed exist. She and the others really made the remarks that I recount. Or at least most of them. One or the other I purposely invented and ascribed to her because she could have said it, since Tante Jolesch was not […] “a person per se, in the conventional sense,” but a prototype.2

Many anecdotes from Friedric Torberg’s book about Tante Jolesch, although written by an openly Jewish intellectual — which is a thing in a mostly antisemitic place like Vienna — are still part of Viennese popular culture today. (As they say “People love dead Jews,”3 which holds particularly true in Vienna.)

The ultimate comfort food recipe we will discuss here, Krautfleckerln cabbage and noodles, is classic fare of these Jewish families’ respectable matrons — of these Aunt Jolesch types. More than that, writes Torberg, they are their magnum opus.

According to Friedrich Torberg’s testimony, before the Shoa, these imposing women with their stereotyped and very particular Jewish Viennese German enunciations, were to be found between Prague and Vienna. This is a category of distinct Jewish characters to which Tante Jolesch most certainly belongs. She was an older, dignified woman, famous for her wit and bon mots as well as for her cooking, and especially for her legendary Krautfleckerln cabbage and noodles.

When word got out — and it always did — that Tante Jolesch was planning Krautfleckerln for the following Sunday, the news spread among her entire extended family: To Brno, to Prague and Vienna, to Budapest, and (maybe via drums) to the most remotet parts of the Puszta [Hungarian desert plains, Ed.], and an entire stream of lovers of Krautfleckerln was set into motion. They came from all four corners, stopping for neither food nor drinks on their way, because they were saving their appetite for the Krautfleckerln, and their thirst was quenched by the anticipation of impending pleasures which made their mouth water. And pleasure it was — time and again — an unprecedented enjoyment each time.4

But Tante Jolesch never did give away her recipe, not even in the 1978 sequel “Die Erben der Tante Jolesch” (“Aunt Jolesch’s heirs”). As a Jewish Viennese food blogger, I thus feel under a forceful and redoubtable obligation to try very hard to recreate Tante Jolesch’s mythical Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles recipe. Many have tried, but we will succeed! On the way, via her most famous creation, we will learn more about Tante Jolesch herself. Stay tuned!

Vienna's eggy pasta specialty called "Fleckerln," meaning patches. This is the type of lokshen (noodle) used for Viennese caramelized cabbage pasta.
Vienna’s eggy pasta specialty is called “Fleckerln,” meaning patches although they look like saddlebacks. This is the type of lokshen (noodles in Yiddish) used for Viennese caramelized cabbage pasta.

First and foremost, it is likely (but who knows) that Tante Jolesch used neither bacon nor rendered pork fat, both of which first appear as cheap ingredients in Vienna in the interwar period 1918-1939 but became very popular in Vienna in the immediate post-Shoah era — thus once there were no more Jews left in Austria.

What, on the other hand, is more likely, is that Tante Jolesch used good old Jewish Ashkenazi schmaltz (rendered goose or chicken fat), or maybe even, as some insist, butter. My educated guess is that she used what was, at the time, a cheap and plentiful gourmet highlight — the old country fat, schmaltz. The epicurean will use goose schmaltz, but to keep it vegan and parvé (without milk, meat, or their derivatives) you can use high-quality olive oil with great success.

The gentile will read schmaltz in a recipe and think it’s rendered pork fat, whereas a Jew will think rendered chicken, goose, or even duck fat. That’s how Jewish recipes like Krautfleckeln ended up being made with pork fat, lard, and bacon. And obviously the other way around too, Jews substituting — almost unknowingly — kosher fat for pork fat, as they too were in fact using schmaltz precisely as the recipe indicated.

But where did Tante Jolesch’s Krautfleckerln itself stem from? Certainly, like all things in the kitchen, it was not a godly creation ex-nihilo.

*

Caramelized cabbage and noodles really is a cultural phenomenon, an institution of the defunct Habsburg empire known across its north-eastern crownlands, from regions of Bohemia (haluski), Slowakia (nudle s zelí), and Hungary (káposztás tészta, cvekedli or kocka) to Southern Poland (kluski z kapusta), Ukraine (Lokshyna z Kapustiou), and Roumania, Serbia, etc.

Krautfleckerln was omnipresent all over the Central European Jewish heartland, where it was a beloved “nine days” food, during which one would eat no meat but only parvé food (Jewishly vegetarian/vegan) and no meat. For Sukkos, it’s the ideal food to reheat. It’s appropriate on Hanukkah too, as it’s fried in plenty of oil. And on Purim, some would toss poppy seeds on top. 

This delicacy was likely originally popularized in Vienna by the many refugees from the eastern crownlands at the downfall of the Habsburg empire. It is a typical shtetl (Yiddish for Jewish village) food that makes the most out of a cheap and plentiful simple ingredient with lots of time, fat, and ingenuity. The low and slow caramelization of cabbage and onions most certainly is such a procedure.

Caramelizing low and slow sure thing is a shtetl (Yiddish for Jewish village) technique, designed to get the most out of a poor man's ingredients.
Caramelizing low and slow is surely a shtetl (Yiddish for Jewish village) technique, designed to get the most out of a poor man’s ingredients.

According to Das Große Sacher Kochbuch, Krautfleckerln made their first appearance in Viennese cookbooks during the last third of the 19th century.5 But Krautfleckerln cabbage lokshen only started to prominently appear all over Viennese cookbooks at the time of Olga and Adolf Hess’ Viennese Cooking which was published in 1913.6 (This seminal cookbook was later translated into English in New York for the refugees and Shoa survivors.)

As I said already elsewhere, this book by the Hesses is a classic cookbook written under a gentile name and shape, but as Susanne Belovari has amply described in her prize-winning The Viennese Cuisine before Hitler — “One Cuisine in the Use of Two Nations,”7 there is a Jewish readability to it: It was common practice for Jews to read such a cookbook that indirectly — or in disguise — catered to their requirements. (Think of the dual readability of schmaltz.)

As food writer and journalist Tobias Müller from Vienna’s newspaper Der Standard8 pointed out to me in an email, Krautfleckerln cabbage and noodles seems to have been a fare particularly popular with Vienna’s Jewish population. Tante Jolesch is a case in point. She, the Jewish matriarch, is associated with one dish only, and sure enough, that’s Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles.

This Krautfleckerln cabbage pasta seems to have been so Jewish that, according to Tobias Müller, it was suppressed in the Aryanized 1939 Nazi-era edition of Alice Urbach’s best-selling Viennese home stylish cookbook, So kocht man in Wien (“That’s how one cooks in Vienna”),9 likely for being way too Jewish. I kind of agree with this theory. Makes sense, unfortunately.

Alice Urbach, "So kocht man in Wien!" (Vienna: 1936) page 190, recipe "753 Krautfleckerl" (cabbage an noodles)
Sadly, Alice Urbach’s Krautfleckerln cabbage and noodles is a very simple and bland version. Boringly, they are only lightly poached in just enough water and time to cook the cabbage. No sugar, which is fine, though also no knobel (garlic) and no kimmel (caraway seeds), two major Jewish food markers. Only pepper. Still, no matter how bland (read blonde), Krautfleckerln cabbage and lokshen (Yiddish for noodles) were deemed to be too Jewish. Seen here, Alice Urbach’s “So kocht man in Wien!” (Vienna, Munich: 1936) page 190, recipe number 753 “Krautfleckerln” (cabbage and noodles) at the Austrian National Library.

(By the way, I wish an affordable reprint of Alice Urbach’s treasure existed, but unsurprisingly and tellingly, there’s none. Therefore, don’t miss the historian and granddaughter of Alice Urbach, Karina Urbach’s fascinating book on the Nazi’s perfidious appropriation of her grandmother’s cookbook: “Alice’s Book — How the Nazis Stole My Grandmother’s Cookbook.10)

Because Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles is seemingly so simple, or rather apparently straightforward, this delight is also one of the most underrated of all Jewish foods. Also, in sheer numbers, there were fewer Jewish Viennese refugees than Hungarian, Polish, Ukrainian, etc. to hand down and disseminate this recipe. This could account for the enormous discrepancy in popularity between Krautfleckerln and other major Jewish dishes. Hence, Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles doesn’t even figure on Tablet Magazine’s (controversial) list of 100 Jewish Foods,11 though they are a Central European monument to the disseminating and appropriating powers of Jewishness in food. Thanks to Friedrich Torberg’s penmanship, we have some trace of this left still today. The Nazis would have succeeded in obliterating the memory of Krautfleckerln as Jewish Viennese food, were it not for us few readers of Tante Jolesch. 

Still, some important Jewish cookbooks do feature cabbage and noodles. Among others, there is the case for such a heterogeneous collection of books as The Jewish Cookbook by Leah Koenig,12 The Haimishe Kitchen by The Ladies Auxiliary of Nitra,13 The Second Ave Deli Cookbook by Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin,14 Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan,15 Spice and Spirit by the Lubavitch Women Organization,16 and A Taste Of Nostalgia by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski and Judi Dick.17 Note that these are all quite different recipes.

*

Friedrich Torberg in 1951 after returning to his beloved Vienna from his American exile. He is signing his book “The Second Encounter” at a reading at the U.S. Information Center in Vienna. (Photo: Wikipedia / ORF)

But back to Friedrich Torberg himself, the creator of Tante Jolesch. He was born on September 16, 1908 to a middle-class Jewish family, and worked as a critic and journalist until 1938 in Prague and Vienna. Like some Jews and some other persecuted victims of Nazi terror with good connections and a lot of luck, Friedrich Torberg managed to exile himself in time to Switzerland, France, and later to the USA where he became a citizen. He returned to Austria in 1951, but without ever taking back his Austrian citizenship.

Friedrich Torberg’s name will forever be linked with not just one Jewish Viennese specialty, Tante Jolesch’s Krautfleckerln, but with two. The other one is Sachertorte, the illustrious chocolate cake, through the so-called “war” over its paternity between two of Vienna’s major pastry shops, the Demel and the Sacher. (Read more on the Sachertorte and its Jewish origins in my post on the subject.)

There was one thing Friedrich Torberg kept telling, over and over, about his years abroad in exile: He could never warm himself up to local food. He thoroughly missed Viennese cuisine — Jewish Viennese food that is — even, or probably especially, in a Jewish deli. This Jewishness expressed itself in a couple of very particular dishes, namely Krautfleckerln cabbage noodles, which is so Viennese that one forgets that it is also Jewish. As I said, the Viennese most certainly know about Tante Jolesch, but today would never consider Krautfleckerln cabbage pasta as Jewish, nor, dare I say it, Aunt Jolesch herself. (I tested this unfortunate state of affairs with average Viennese from the street!)

Among the very few German-language authors who know about and acknowledge Krautfleckerln as coming onto the plates of the Viennese by way of Vienna’s Jewish cuisine is Gerd Wolfgang Sievers, in his exciting Wiener Beiselkochbuch.18

Anyway, there was a time, until the mid-1990s at least, I guess, when Krautfleckerln was featured on the menu of every decent Viennese tavern, the famous so-called Beisl’s. Today, they are a bit harder to get, as they seem to have fallen out of fashion.

And let’s be honest — what could be more German sounding than “Krautfleckerln,” especially to an English-speaking ear? The “Kraut” is the German, and “Fleck” is a speck or small patch. So Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles literally is a mix of small splashes of something very German.

In his famous German gibberish language in the Great Dictator, Chaplin could have used the word “Krautfleckerln” instead of “Schnitzel.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about or haven’t seen Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, go watch it right away!)19

*

About the Krautfleckerln fried cabbage and noodle recipe itself (and our endeavor to recreate the historically correct iteration of this Jewish dish), a rather astonishing thing is that there’s also a marvelous sweet version of this recipe which is dusted with loads of powdered sugar. 

This delicacy is beloved by many a child. I for sure fancied Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles a lot, especially the sweet version. Today, I often think I should prefer the savory rendition of Krautfleckerln, but I don’t. I like the savory Austrian rendition, but the sweet powdered sugar Hungarian iteration is heaven. (On an even more personal note, paralleling this development — or non-development — I’ve got a Hungarian mother, from the sweet side of the empire, and a Viennese father, from the savory camp.)

Sweet Krautfleckerln, my favorite. Same recipe, including pepper, knobel (Yiddish for garlic), and kimmel (Yiddish for caraway seeds) but dusted with powdered sugar. You think I'm crazy? Wait till you have tried them!
Sweet Krautfleckerln is my favorite. Same recipe, including pepper, knobel (Yiddish for garlic), and kimmel (Yiddish for caraway seeds) but dusted with a lot of powdered sugar. Do you think I’m crazy? Wait ’til you’ve tried them!

Even the typical savory Viennese rendition of this specialty throws in quite a hefty amount of sugar that one is supposed to caramelize before adding the cabbage itself. This sounds like a classic shortcut to regular caramelization of the cabbage, but in reality, there’s no substitute nor way to shorten the process of what in technical terms is called the Maillard reaction. James Kenji López-Alt, the author of The Food Lab,20 and Daniel Gritzer, both of the website and food project Serious Eats, have confirmed this truth about caramelizing onions after investing much thought and testing into what were supposedly all kinds of shortcuts.21

As is true of onions, the caramelization of cabbage is also a low and slow procedure. Cabbage and noodles is a very cheap but time-consuming specialty food. Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles is most definitely not for the quick and easy, low-fat cook.

The key to this dish is the slow cooking of the cabbage — you want it to really break down and caramelize. [Hungarian Cabbage & Noodles by Miriam Szokovski on Chabad.org]22

Few recipes get this caramelization process right, but Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski and Judi Dick in their A Taste Of Nostalgia23 and Spice and Spirit by the Lubavitch Women Organization24 do what translates into the best results, low and slow for at least an hour.

Real caramelized cabbage is a divine thing as steamed or lightly sautéed cabbage is bland and mostly boring. And sure, if the main ingredient is disappointing you have to add bacon, lard, and whatnot to make it happen. See the average cabbage and noodles recipe out there to prove this point. This classic is, and should be, about cabbage and noodles and nothing else. No need for all these extras when you have properly caramelized cabbage. I’m quite certain that the cosmopolitan kitchen maven Tante Jolesch knew about this cooking secret, which was handed to her by her relatives and ancestors from the shtetl, and that’s precisely why Tante Jolesch’s Krautfleckerln cabbage and noodles was so famous. Because she must have understood and known about this key point, which most of the recipes out there get wrong to this day.

Not so, food vlogger Helen Rennie from Boston. She has it all right in her video about caramelizing cabbage! Sure, one could discuss whether to use goose or chicken fat, olive oil, or butter for this operation. I leave it up to you. Each has its own advantages. I definitely opt for olive oil. Certainly, the more authentic choice would be schmaltz.

So, I repeat — the most important step in Krautfleckerln sautéed cabbage and pasta is the caramelizing of the cabbage. Therein lies all the umami and the depth of flavor. If you just mix in caramelized sugar you will miss out on all the wonderful tastiness. Therefore, we’ll slowly and carefully but thoroughly caramelize the cabbage.

Then we’ll add nothing but the obligatory kimmel, which is Yiddish for caraway seeds. This step in our reconstruction of the original recipe is added in remembrance of Tante Jolesch’s Bohemian extraction, we’ll always add kimmel to our Krautfleckerln cabbage with noodles, just as she probably did.

And, as per tradition, we will continue by adding loads of freshly ground black pepper, and, if you prefer the sweet way, a sizable amount of powdered sugar.

*

There’s one last, and certainly the most crucial, thing you should know about Tante Jolesch’s celebrated Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and noodles. It’s the undisclosed secret of why Aunt Jolesch’s cooking in general, and her Krautfleckerln in particular, were so unbelievably good. It’s another shtetl secret, born in scarcity, that Friedrich Torberg revealed to readers in an anecdote about Tante Jolesch’s Krautfleckerln, which undoubtedly is the author’s most famous piece of literature:

They had tried for years, through trick and artifice, to pry the recipe of this incomparable creation from her. In vain, Tant Jolesch would not reveal it. And since she eventually became rather annoyed when pressed on the issue, they finally desisted.

Then Tante Jolesch’s end was near; her time was up, the family was gathered around her deathbed, and the depressed silence was interrupted only by murmured prayers and suppressed sobs — nothing else. Tante Jolesch lay motionless on her pillow; still breathing, but just barely.

It was then that her favorite niece, Louise, gathered all her courage and approached the bed. Her voice was strangled with grief, but her words were no less urgent:

“Tante, you cannot take the recipe into the grave with you. Don’t you want to bequeath it to us? Won’t you finally tell us why your Krautfleckerln were always so good?”

With her last bit of strength, Tante Jolesch raised herself a little: “Because I never made enough,” she said, smiled, and died.25

She was the incarnate law of scarcity and demand, driving prices to astronomical heights.

*

Getrude Berg as Molly Goldberg in 1951. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Finally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to present to you an incarnation of Tante Jolesch. Some on the Internet suggested actress Gertrude Berg in her rendition of the quintessential American Jewish mother for the 1950s TV show “The Goldbergs” to be a Tante Jolesch. This could indeed be her if it weren’t for her relative lack of witticisms, sharp tongue and stateliness. Also, she plays a mother, not a grandmother. She’s a pretty good match nonetheless, I guess.

Amalie Freud, Sigmund Freud’s mother in 1903. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Much closer, however, to Tante Jolesch, is Sigmund Freud’s very own mother, Amalie Freud, who was born in Brody, Galicia, in 1835 and who died in 1930 in Vienna at the age of 95. She was, approximately the same generation as Tante Jolesch and they were both Jewish Viennese matriarchs.

This picture likely bears a much closer resemblance to the real Jewish Viennese Tante Jolesch, especially in her attitude and dignified guise.

In opposition to this strict self-presentation, and in keeping with Ernest Jones, a lifelong friend and colleague of Sigmund Freud who became his official biographer, the mother of the founder of psychoanalysis was lively and humorous.26

Also, there’s no doubt that to Amalie Freud, who according to what we know spoke Yiddish, Krautfleckerln were known as kraut lokshen or kraut pletzlach.

*

I don’t know what to say after such a concise and epic ending — her last sigh and Tante Jolesch’s final witticism: “’Because I never made enough,’ she said, smiled, and died.” 

But no worries, we’ve got you covered. We’ve successfully reconstituted and put together what very likely was Tante Jolesch’s original Krautfleckerln cabbage with pasta recipe in all its Italianesque simplicity and unpretentious straightforward glory.

See for yourself and enjoy THE most Jewish Viennese food there is!

Viennese Caramelized Cabbage and Noodles – “Krautfleckerln”

 

This is a very simple dish. The utmost attention must thus be brought to each of the few ingredients. They should be of the highest quality and of prime freshness. This will make a very big difference in the final product. In one word, this will make or break the dish!

Krautfleckerln cabbage pasta will be meaty with chicken or goose fat, vegetarian with butter or oil, and vegan if you go as far as to use eggless pasta.

Also, it is crucial to get the ratio of “Fleckerln” pasta to caramelized cabbage right. You need a lot of cabbage and a small amount of noodles. Half a head of medium cabbage to approximately 165 g/5.8 oz/0.36 lbs of raw “Fleckerln” pasta will be about right. (Or 500 g/17.6 oz/1.1 lbs, of pasta per every one-and-a-half heads of cabbage.) This runs counter to all the pictures of cabbage and noodles swamping the Internet. They show too much pasta and not enough cabbage.

I know some in Hungary swear by the contrary, and the square noodles always dominate the cabbage…

Authentic Viennese Fleckerln Noodles

If you can’t source the original Austrian “Fleckerln” pasta, you could get away with the ubiquitous bow tie “farfalle” noodles. Better though would be to get Italian square “quadretti” or, in a pinch, even small ear-like shaped “orecchiette” instead. Another trick would be to break up tagliatelle into small square pieces.

The very traditional Viennese Fleckerln egg noodles are made by a few brands. One is a famous local brand called “Recheis,” which is even kosher and dates back to 1889. They have regular Fleckerln, spelt Fleckerln, vegan Fleckerln, and even whole wheat Fleckerln, all kosher as of 2022.

Fleckerln pasta has a distinct shape that helps it to pick up the sauce and other ingredients. In fact, Fleckerln noodles are little fingertip-sized squares that are slightly pinched and rather pretty.

Austrian noodles with German spelling. With Friedrich Torberg we write, grammatically correct, "Fleckerln" with a "n" for the plural. One must unfortunately acknowledge that even the official Austrian German dictionary has abdicated and writes "Fleckerl" without a "n."
I’ve added an “n” to these Austrian noodles with German spelling. With Friedrich Torberg and most every Viennese cookbook, we write what was once the grammatically correct spelling in Austria, “Fleckerln” with an ending “n.” (Fleckerl is a neuter-noun ending in “-erl” that had to take an “n” at the end in the plural. One must, unfortunately, acknowledge that even the official Austrian German dictionary has abdicated and writes that today, for the plural, both are now acceptable, “Fleckerl” with or without an ending “n.”)

Checking Cabbage for Bugs

A hardly appetizing topic that one must nonetheless face head-on, is the subject of infestation of the cabbage leaves and head. In Vienna, generally, cabbage is okay, but there are rather rare exceptions, especially in the case of high-quality organic produce. The level of infestation can vary with the season.

Here, hidden in the midst of the recipe, an instruction on how to check the leaves and the cabbage head for worms and bugs provided by the Orthodox Union.27

1 1/2 cabbage heads for Krautfleckerln caramelized cabbage and lokshen
1 1/2 green cabbage heads for 500g lokshen.

Caramelizing Cabbage

There are unfortunately no shortcuts to a low and slow caramelization process. And most certainly, the following typical Austrian culinary vice — or one could probably even call it a Central European bad cooking habit — will not give satisfying results: Caramelizing actual sugar, into which one would dump the raw cabbage to skip the whole drudgery of the caramelization operation. This procedure is no doubt only acceptable for Yerushalmi kigel, because you obviously can’t caramelize noodles. Be sure to see the post above for more details.

Caramelizing cabbage

To Deglaze, Use High-Quality White Wine

Yes, this is a major component in the flavor profile, so pay close attention to what you’re working with here. Typical wines would be a Viennese “Gemischter Satz” or an Austrian “Grüner Veltliner.” The family estate winery Hafner has kosher options for that.28 I used their “Welschriesling” last time I made the Krautfleckerln, and that was an excellent choice too.

If you can’t get hold of these rather hard-to-find, wonderful, kosher white wines from Vienna, I would suggest looking for something similar to Grüner Veltliner’s flavor profile, that is to say, a white wine that has dominant flavors of lemon, lime, grapefruit, and even nectarine. Grüner Veltliner also has notes of white pepper, green bean, radish, lovage, tarragon, ginger, and honey. Otherwise, a Sauvignon Blanc can be a good choice.

Deglazing caramelized cabbage with a Grüner Veltliner white wine from Vienna.
Deglaze caramelized cabbage with a Grüner Veltliner white wine from Vienna, or any good Sauvignon Blanc.

Kimmel (Caraway Seeds) vs Cumin

Use kimmel (Yiddish for caraway seeds), not cumin. They look quite similar but their taste differs considerably! Caraway seeds have a nutty, bittersweet sharpness with a hint of citrus and anise. Also, licorice notes are quite distinctive. These flavors are excellent together with the Viennese white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, the black pepper, and the caramelized cabbage.

Kimmel is Tante Jolesch’s Bohemian touch to this dish.

A hand full of kimmel (caraway seeds) for the Krautfleckerln, the caramelized cabbage and lokshen (noodles).
A handful of kimmel (caraway seeds) for the Krautfleckerln, the caramelized cabbage and lokshen (noodles).

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

This is to state the obvious, but if you are in the habit of using pre-ground black pepper, this is an occasion where you should definitely forego this practice. Do yourself a favor and insist on using nothing but freshly ground black pepper. It will make a world of a difference. Grinde the peppercorns directly onto the noodles.

Ingredients

This will not be enough for 10 to 12

  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 average head of green cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup of olive oil, butter, or schmaltz, or as much as needed for proper caramelization
  • Iodine-free salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of knoble (Yiddish for garlic) powder
  • About 2 cups of white wine to deglaze (something like a Viennese Grüner Veltliner or a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 tablespoons kimmel (Yiddish for caraway seeds)
  • Freshly ground coarse black pepper, to taste
  • 500 g (17.6 oz/1.1 lbs) of “Fleckerln” lokshen (Yiddish for noodles), see the note above for substitutions.
  • Powdered sugar to taste (if using)

Instructions

  1. Chop the onions.
  2. Quarter the cabbage head. Core and shred it not too thin (About half a finger thick).
  3. In a very large sauté pan, pour olive oil or schmaltz to generously cover the bottom. Turn the heat to medium. Add onions and cabbage. Add just enough cabbage to still be able to stir it without spilling over. Salt liberally. Sprinkle with plenty of garlic powder. Mix. Add more cabbage and oil, and again sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Stir well. Once you have added all the cabbage, cover.
  4. Check from time to see whether the browning has begun. If the caramelization has started all over the pan, scrape the bottom of the pan until clean. If the bottom turns dry, add more oil or schmaltz. 
  5. Once the vegetable water has evaporated and you have used up all the oil or the schmaltz, you can also carefully use water to deglaze. Reduce the heat a bit. Be careful not to burn the cabbage.
  6. After about an hour or an hour-and-a-half, the cabbage should be nicely caramelized all over. Deglaze with white wine. Thoroughly scrape the bottom of the pan one last time. Let the wine evaporate completely.
  7. Slightly toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan.
  8. Mix in the caraway seeds.
  9. Cook the noodles as per instructions. Drain, but don’t rinse the noodles. 
  10. Immediately add the noodles to the cabbage and combine them completely.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste. 
  12. Now either serve savory Krautfleckerln, the Viennese way: Grind plenty of black pepper over the cabbage noodles and mix well and grind some more pepper. Serve with a glass of Viennese Grüner Veltliner or a Sauvignon Blanc. Let everyone grind as much additional pepper on their plates as they wish.
    Alternatively, serve sweet Krautfleckerln, the Hungarian way: do the above and then finish it off with a healthy dusting of powdered sugar… and then some more.

 

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Footnotes

  1. Friedrich Torberg, Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes (Munich: DTV, 1975 / Translated by Maria Poglitsch Bauer, edited by Sonat Birnecker Hart. Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 2008) p. 11 link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=Tante+Jolesch+or+The+Decline+of+the+West+in+Anecdotes+Friedrich+Torberg&search=Find+book
  2. Friedrich Torberg, Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes (Munich: DTV, 1975 / Translated by Maria Poglitsch Bauer, edited by Sonat Birnecker Hart. Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 2008) p. 2 link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=Tante+Jolesch+or+The+Decline+of+the+West+in+Anecdotes+Friedrich+Torberg&search=Find+book
  3. This is an allusion to Dara Horn’s fabulous book with its great, shocking, and in-your-face but oh-so-true title “People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present.” link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=people%20love%20dead%20jews&search=Find+book 
  4. Friedrich Torberg, Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes (Munich: DTV, 1975 / Translated by Maria Poglitsch Bauer, edited by Sonat Birnecker Hart. Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 2008) p.11 link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=Tante+Jolesch+or+The+Decline+of+the+West+in+Anecdotes+Friedrich+Torberg&search=Find+book
  5. Franz Maier-Bruck Das Große Sacher Kochbuch – Die Österreichische Küche (Munich: Schuler, 1975), p.399 link: https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF-_-home-_-Results&tn=Das%20Gro%DFe%20Sacher%20Kochbuch&an=Franz%20Maier-Bruck
  6. Olga and Adolf Hess, Viennese Cooking (New York: Crown Publishers, 1952) link: https://archive.org/details/viennesecooking0000hess
  7. Susanne Belovari, The Viennese Cuisine before Hitler — “One Cuisine in the Use of Two Nations” link: https://sophiecoeprize.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/belovari-the-viennese-cuisine-before-hitler-e28093-e28098one-cuisine-in-the-use-of-two-nationse28099.pdf
  8. Der Stadnard link: https://www.derstandard.at/
  9. Alice Urbach “So kocht man in Wien! Ein Koch- und Haushaltungsbuch der gut bürgerlichen Küche” (Wien : Zentralges. f. Buchgewerbl. u. Graph. Betriebe : München : Reinhardt in Komm. 1936)
  10. Karina Urbach, Alice’s Book — How the Nazis Stole My Grandmother’s Cookbook. (Berlin: 2020/London: 2022) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=alice%27s+book+karina+urbach&search=Find+book
  11. Tablet Magazine’s list of 100 Jewish Foods. Link: https://100jewishfoods.tabletmag.com/
  12. Leah Koenig, The Jewish Cookbook (London: Phaidon, 2019) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/Jewish-Cookbook-Leah-Koenig/9780714879338?ref=grid-view&qid=1670858161526&sr=1-1
  13. The Ladies Auxiliary of Nitra, The Haimishe Kitchen (NewYork: 1977) link: https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF-_-home-_-Results&tn=The%20Haimishe%20Kitchen&an=Ladies%20Auxiliary%20of%20Nitra
  14. Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin, The Second Ave Deli Cookbook (New York: Villard Books, 1999) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Second-Avenue-Deli-Cookbook-Sharon-Lebewohl-Rena-Bulkin-Jack-Lebewohl/9780375502675
  15. Joan Nathan, Jewish Cooking in America (NewYork: Knopf, 1998) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=Jewish+Cooking+in+America+Joan+Nathan&search=Find+book
  16. Lubavitch Women Organization, Spice and Spirit (Brooklyn: 1990) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=spice+and+spirit+lubavitch&search=Find+book
  17. Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski and Judi Dick, A Taste Of Nostalgia (Brooklyn: Artscroll, 2006) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/Taste-Nostalgia-Rabbi-Abraham-J-Twerski/9781422601051?ref=grid-view&qid=1670859974138&sr=1-2
  18. Gerd Wolfgang Sievers, Wiener Beiselkochbuch(Wien: Metroverlag,  2012) link: https://www.amazon.de/Wiener-Beiselkochbuch-Gerd-Wolfgang-Sievers/dp/3993000714
  19. Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Dictator-Criterion-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B004NWPXZS/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2H5HVDG1KVFW3&keywords=the+great+dictator+blu+ray&qid=1669299172&sprefix=the+great+dictator%2Caps%2C237&sr=8-1
  20. Book Depository, link: https://www.bookdepository.com/Food-Lab-J-Kenji-Lopez-Alt/9780393081084
  21. Serious Eats link: https://www.seriouseats.com/caramelized-onions
  22. Hungarian Cabbage & Noodles by Miriam Szokovski on Chabad.org. Link: https://www.chabad.org/recipes/recipe_cdo/aid/4351296/jewish/Hungarian-Cabbage-Noodles.htm
  23. Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski and Judi Dick, A Taste Of Nostalgia (Brooklyn: Artscroll, 2006) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/Taste-Nostalgia-Rabbi-Abraham-J-Twerski/9781422601051?ref=grid-view&qid=1670859974138&sr=1-2
  24. Lubavitch Women Organization, Spice and Spirit (Brooklyn: 1990) link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=spice+and+spirit+lubavitch&search=Find+book
  25. Friedrich Torberg, Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes (Munich: DTV, 1975 / Translated by Maria Poglitsch Bauer, edited by Sonat Birnecker Hart. Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 2008) p.11-12 link: https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=Tante+Jolesch+or+The+Decline+of+the+West+in+Anecdotes+Friedrich+Torberg&search=Find+book
  26. Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1964 abridged in one volume, originally published in 1953 in three volumes.) p. 32-3 link: https://www.abebooks.com/9780465097005/Life-Work-Sigmund-Freud-Ernest-0465097006/plp
  27. Link: https://oukosher.org/recipes/caramelized-cabbage-and-farfel-pareve/
  28. Here’s for example Hafner’s “Grüner Veltliner” Link: https://wein-shop.at/produkt/gruener-veltliner-2/
Nino Shaya Weiss
Greetings, I am Nino Shaye Weiss, an unbridled foodnik kibbitzing (aka blogging) from Vienna, a place steeped in history and culture. The city of music and dreams, once loved and hated by Sigmund Freud, has been home to many celebrated Jewish figures, including Theodor Herzl, Gustav Mahler, Viktor Frankl, Martin Buber, Stefan Zweig, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schoenberg, and Erich von Stroheim, among others. In my blog, I endeavor to pay tribute to these great figures as well as to the anonymous Jew of pre-Shoah Jewish Vienna by delving into memory's kitchen and celebrating their once-rich and diverse cuisine, now lost forever. From Italian and Hungarian influences to Bohemian and Galician, I explore the eclectic flavors and unique stories of this previously vibrant culinary tradition, often with a Freudian twist. Join me in my virtual kitchen as I offer a culinary armchair therapy for a fictional restaurant, and discover the delicious world of Jewish Viennese food…

2 Comments

  1. Aldi, in the US, sells “egg noodles” that appear to be the very Fleckerln you describe. Very inexpensive and likely imported from Germany. Also OU kosher.

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