It was back in 2012, on October 26th, the Austrian National Day. There was a big celebration with a military parade in the famous Vienna's Ringstrasse and thousands of people on the streets. And I can't think of a better occasion to try some local street food than the holiday food stands! Understandably, there were plenty of them that day, which was a bit confusing for me, as I couldn't decide which food to try first. :) So, I eliminated those that had any kind of meat (as I'm very picky when it comes to meat), and reduced the choice to only a few. 'Cause yes, it happened that Austrians eat lots of meat (or better say sausages)! :)
My eyes (and my nose) stuck on some pale greenish dish that was cooking in a huge pot. I only "identified" the bow-tie pasta, and I thought "pasta can't be a bad choice, right?" So I gave it a try... And I was thrilled! First, I was delighted by its delicious aroma, which eased my repulsion of trying uncharted food. And then, its flavor... It was a completely unknown combination for me, a flavor I've never tried before. Creamy sweetish pasta with some vegetables and caraway seeds... Yes, I couldn't miss to feel the caraway tang. I liked the first bite of this dish and enjoyed each one after!
Aha! So, cabbage was the "mysterious" vegetable I was eating! :)
The considerable sweetness of this dish surprised me a bit, as I wasn't really expecting to get a sweet main course, but I soon discovered that a large number of Austrian main dishes are sweetened or accompanied with a sweet sauce/side dish.
My hosts were kind to explain me how to prepare Kraut Flecken on my own, and I tried my hand at it soon. And it's not difficult at all. Besides, it's done really quick. Well, the quick part is true only if you're following the "modern" version of the recipe which uses store-bought pasta. The original one calls for homemade fresh pasta (i.e. ripped pieces of dough). And when choosing store-bought pasta, go for some that is small in size. Bow tie, shells, elbow or other similar-sized shapes are the best choice, though others are fine as well.
This dish can be made both with fresh and soured cabbage. In fact, the soured cabbage (i.e. sauerkraut) is the authentic ingredient, but I personally like the version with fresh cabbage better.
And here's what you'll need to make 4 servings:
- Note that if using sauerkraut, you won't need that 1 Tbsp of caraway seeds, as most sauerkraut recipes already have it.
- This recipe is labeled gluten-free and vegan, but pay attention to the type of pasta you are using.
- Shred the cabbage (if using fresh). Finely chop the onion.
- Pour oil in a deep pan or a pot and heat it over medium fire. Add sugar and stir until caramelized. Then, add cabbage, onions and caraway seeds, and cook stirring often until vegetables are soft.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain well and set aside.
- When cabbage is done, sprinkle with some pepper and some salt to taste and stir in drained pasta. Remove from fire, cover the pan and let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.