According to Cuisine of Hungary, written by Holocaust survivor George Lang, cabbage strudel was a typical Hungarian recipe often found on the menu at tiny restaurants across the country. Filled with inexpensive, everyday ingredients like mushrooms or cabbage and flavored with caraway, the dough was usually made with lard. Hungarian Jews adapted the recipe, using oil or butter instead of the prohibited lard, and made it their own—traditionally serving it at Simchat Torah and Purim, the two holidays when drinking and revelry take place. (Cabbage has been a classic cure for hangovers since the time of antiquity.)
I first tasted cabbage strudel in the early 1970s, at the home of Israeli musician Josef Tal. It was salty, it was sweet, it was crunchy; most important, it was delicious.
These days, I cheat and use phyllo rather than homemade strudel dough. But whether you’re serving it as an elegant appetizer, main course, or even a dessert, cabbage strudel (recipe here) still makes the perfect dish for Simchat Torah.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.