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Name: Laszlo Sarkozi
Home country: Hungary
Laszlo Sarkozi and his family came to Canada as asylum seekers in 2010, amid violent attacks and rallies against the Roma ethnic minority in central Europe. Although they were denied refugee status, the family was granted the right to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in 2013.
Laszlo says there are very few things he longs for from his home country; what he mostly misses is the food. Fortunately, his mother, Ilona Orsos, prepares traditional Hungarian dishes for the family in the kitchen of their east Toronto apartment – comfort foods such as meaty goulash stew and paradicsomos gomboc. Laszlo likens the latter to spaghetti and meatballs, only served with potatoes instead of pasta. It's one of his favourite meals.
Laszlo also looks forward to the cakes his mother loves to bake, such as Black Forest and dobos torta, a decadent creation with multiple layers of chocolate icing and topped with caramel. But even though she followed the same recipes as ever, it took some trial and error to recreate these familiar foods in Canada. Finding the right ingredients was a challenge, Laszlo recalls. "I remember my mom had a lot of problem with flour at first when she was baking … and then she realized, 'This is not proper,'" he says, noting the cakes came out soggy and didn't taste quite as good.
The solution, it turns out, required nothing fancy. "First we bought it from, I think, Wal-mart. And then we changed to Metro [grocery chain]," he says. They also switched brands from Robin Hood to Five Roses. For whatever reason, Laszlo says, the latter "just goes better with the stuff my mom bakes."
Ilona Orsos explains how she makes one of Laszlo's favourite dishes, paradicsomos gomboc:
"I make the meatballs with ground pork, eggs and spices, mostly whatever I have: parsley, black pepper, garlic powder, basil and oregano.
"They're big meatballs, not small. I cook them in the tomato sauce. Usually I use canned, stewed tomato. I put it in with a little canola or olive oil, it depends on what I have at home. I let it cook a little bit, you know? Then I pour in water, and the meatballs, I cook them in this. At the end, I put flour in some hot oil until it is a little bit brown and pour this into the tomato sauce. Recently, I started using gluten-free flour to make the sauce thicker. And I put in salt, basil and sugar.
"The potatoes, I simply cook the potatoes in water."
As told to Wency Leung