Slíže: Slovak noodles, often sweet
There are foods that span a range of diverse cultures – like noodles. The exact origins of pasta is debated, but today thin pieces of rolled flour and water are enjoyed across Asia, Europe and North America.
It tastes good, one of those addictive comfort foods, and takes on the taste of any country, from bowls of brothy ramen to plates of spaghetti covered with thick tomato sauce and Parmesan.
One Slovak version of noodles is called slíže (sli-se, s pronounced like in Asia). They are also called rezance (re-zan-tse). If there is a difference between slíže and rezance, the Slovaks I asked couldn’t come to a consensus. For me, one big difference is that these noodles are often eaten sweet, with poppy seed, nuts, or tvaroh (farmers cheese), with lots of melted butter and honey or icing sugar.
Slíže with tvaroh (farmers cheese), poppy seeds, nuts, or eggs.
I admit that I haven’t adapted to bought spaghetti noodles made sweet. My strongest memory of this shortcut is asking for lunch after the birth of the twins and receiving a plate of soggy spaghetti with dry poppy seeds and icing sugar, no fat in an attempt to be either healthier or cheaper. It was dry and tasteless and not what I wanted after hours of labour. Is hospital food horrible the world over?
Homemade slíže is another matter, however. Slathered in butter and with a touch of honey, sweet slíže becomes a foray into another cuisine, one of those dishes that mixes known foods in unknown ways.
Pani Obulana graciously agreed to show me how to make slíže. We arranged to meet through her daughter-in-law, but when she sees me at the gate she smiles. “Ah, yes, I recognize you from church,” she says. She is relieved that I am someone she recognizes, and not a complete stranger.
To make the slíže, pani Obulana covers the table with an old plastic tablecloth and pulls out a pastry board. She’s used the board for 50 years. And she explains to me that she covers the new tablecloth to preserve it – she was raised to save things and not throw things away. I ask her why she has two stoves – originally they had a wood stove and an electric stove, but when the gas lines we put in they replaced the wood stove with the gas stove. They kept the electric stove, however, as her elderly mother was living with them and they were worried about her leaving the gas on. The electric stove still works after all these years, she says. The two topics meld into a ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ conversation, both of us lamenting the wasteful culture of our times.
Teta pours a seemingly random amount of flour on the pastry board, makes a well, and cracks in an egg and adds water, stirring with a knife until it comes together and she can start kneading the dough.
I notice a creased photo with a candle before it on the kitchen counter. “I’ve been a widow for 20 years now,” she sighs. She still misses him, I think. He was a soldier and sent the photo to her when he was stationed on the Czech-German border. “I was working at the time as a cleaner at the castle, just for a few months, and when I got the letter it seemed like it was just paper so I folded it and put it in my apron pocket. When I opened it I realized there was a photo inside and I had made a crease in it.”
Teta is kneading the dough – it should be not too soft but not too hard, she says. I’m not sure what too soft or too hard would feel like. She cuts it in half and starts to roll it out. She rolls it thin, turning it as she rolls and letting part of it hand over the edge of the table so that the far edge of the dough is closer. When the dough is rolled thin, it then needs to sit for about 30 minutes to dry a little.
She is still chipper and when she smiles, which is often, her intensely blue eyes light up. She’s 80, and knows she doesn’t look it. I ask her if she remembers WWII. Yes, she says, very well.
Easter in 1945 was on April 1st, as it was this year in 2018. Teta was seven when the front came through Smolenice. During Holy Week before Easter, she remembers her father, uncle, and neighbour digging trenches beyond the barnyard. On Easter day they huddled in the trench, eating treats that had already been baked. Violets were blooming above them.
Wounded soldiers, of both sides though not at the same time, took up residence in people’s homes, in people’s beds. A little girl, she would peak at the strange men lying in their home before scuttling back to the shelter they slept in. The Russians wanted fresh chicken and good food everyday; they ate well, she snorted. As another teta recalled, about half the town took wagons with hay and blankets and even cows into the forest to a particular dip that is sheltered on three sides.
Her parents hid belongings in the hay, but when Russian soldiers came by asking for hay for their horses, the items were exposed and the soldiers took it all. When the Germans retreated though, she grinned, they dropped all the things they had taken.
Everyone was poorer after the war, and some lost their homes completely. Teta’s husband’s family’s house, as well as others in the area, burned down. If I understand correctly, Russian soldiers burned them down for fun. Her father in law was a coachman for the aristocrat who lived in the castle, and the grof helped his employees have somewhere to live. The grof and his family had to flee soon after the war, however, leaving everything behind, as Communism abhorred the aristocracy.
It’s time to cut the dough. Teta liberally sprinkles the dough with semolina flour, both on the pastry board and on top. She then slices the dough into strips about 8 cm (3 inch) wide, piles them up five or six thick, and starts slicing. She slices away but remembers how her mother could slice so quickly, much faster than herself.
It looks easy, but when I try my noodles are all stuck together. You’re pressing to hard, she says, you have to hold the dough very lightly and have a very sharp knife.
When a pile of cut slíže accumulates, pani Obulana tosses them with her hands to make sure they are loose. We pull apart any that are stuck together (mine) before putting them into the well-salted boiling water. “You don’t put much salt in the dough, just a pinch, otherwise it doesn’t dry well, so then you have to generously salt the water,” she advises.
The noodles are done when they are floating, and she uses a strainer to fish them out of the water, dumping them into a small casserole dish, then pouring a bit of melted lard over top and stirring so they don’t stick. She has two of the same casserole pans that fit together, one like a lid, that bake the perfect roast chicken, she claims.
After a few batches the cooking water is thick and murky. She adds a little more water and a little more salt. “My mother didn’t throw this water away, she would strain it and use it to starch the laundry,” teta remembers.
The traditional Slovak costume for women uses a lot of starch, as I myself am just learning. In this area, the sleeves need to stay stiff and puffed out, and the underskirts need to be stiff as well to maintain full body. My girls are in folklore, and I was confused why their kroj weren’t so stiff as I was starching according to the directions on the package, until a friend laughed and said I had to use three or four times as much.
Not only did they use the cooking water for starch, said teta, but they also made a quick soup with it. They called it benzínka. I wonder if it refers to the soup being a quick source of energy with all that starch, as benzín means gasoline. Should we make it, she asks? Of course!
Into a small pot she puts a spoonful of lard, squeezes in a clove of garlic, a few shakes of vegeta (dry vegetable seasoning), paprika, and pepper. Ladle into the pot hot noodle water and voila, instant soup. Slovaks eat soup with the main meal, lunch, every day (which is why I wrote a digital cookbook of consisting of Slovak soups and stews). She serves it poured over more noodles.
We decide to cook up the slíže mixed with scrambled egg, which she loves with pickles. “Shall we have a glass of wine with it?” she asks, her eyes twinkling.
As we are cooking, at one point she grimaces as she bends over to pick something up. Four years ago she was waiting at the bus stop when a car, stopped at the same spot for ice cream, backed into her. She ended up halfway under the car. Though shaken, she didn’t feel hurt until the next morning, when she couldn’t get out of bed. It turned out that a few discs in her lower back had been damaged. Since then her back sometimes bothers her, though she has gone to various doctors and goes to a medicinal spa every year for it.
The pickles are obviously homemade, the vinegar kind. She says she cans a good amount of pickles in the summer but mostly for her children. A typical Slovak grandmother.
We agree to meet again sometime, and she will show me how to make osúch. I’m so glad I got to meet such a lovely woman willing to share her knowledge and stories. Thank you pani Obulana!
These noodles can be cut thin, as shown, or wider. Both can be cooked and eaten the same way. I’ve included four common toppings, but Slovaks also sprinkle over cacao powder, mix in plum butter or other jam, or make the tvaroh version savoury. I want to break the standards and try mixing tvaroh, poppy seeds, and nuts together.
Slíže: Slovak noodles, often sweet
This Slovak version of noodles, slíže, are short and thin, often served with sweet toppings such as farmers cheese, poppy seed, and nuts. It is also delicious in soup or mixed into scrambled eggs with a pickle.
- 250 grams (1 1/2 cups) semolina flour
- 250 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- pinch salt
- 230 ml (1 cup) water, lukewarm
On a pastry board or in a bowl, mix the flours. Add the egg, salt, and water and stir into a shaggy mass, then knead until it forms into a ball.
Cut the dough into two. Sprinkle flour onto a flat surface and roll out one piece until thin, a few mm. Fold into quarters to transfer to a clean cloth for it to rest for 30 minutes. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
Generously sprinkle a flat surface with semonlina flour and place one rolled piece of dough on it, sprinkling the top with semolina as well. Slice into strips about 8 cm (3 inches) wide. Put on a medium pot of water with a tablespoon or so of salt on to boil.
Stack up about five or six strips. Hold the strips very lightly with one hand while slicing thin strips off the short side with a very sharp knife. When the length of the strips has been cut, use your hands to toss the noodles and pull apart any that have stuck together.
When the water is boiling, dump the slize into the water. Stir right away so they don't stick to each other or the pot. Stir every few minutes. When the noodles are floating, fish them out with a strainer.
Put the noodles into a casserole dish or bowl and pour over a little butter, oil, or lard, depending on how you will be flavouring the noodles. Stir. Continue with your preferred flavour.
Tvaroh (farmers cheese) topping
The topping for slize
- 55 grams (1/4 cup) butter, melted
- 250 grams (9 oz) tvaroh/farmers cheese/quark/dry cottage cheese
- honey or powdered sugar, to taste
- milk or sour cream optional
Melt the butter and pour over the hot noodles. Some people like to make more of a sauce with the tvaroh with milk or sour cream, but some don't. Add sweetener of choice to taste - some will like it very sweet, other not so sweet.
Poppy seed Topping
Topping for slize made from poppy seeds.
- 55 grams (1/4 cup) butter
- 100 grams (3/4 cup) poppy seeds
- honey or icing sugar to taste
Melt butter and pour over noodles. Grind poppy seeds in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or blender. Toss poppy seeds with noodles and sweetener of choice.
Topping for homemade noodles with nuts.
- 55 grams (1/4 cup) butter
- 200 grams walnuts, or other nuts
- honey or icing sugar to taste
Place walnuts (or other nuts) on a pan and roast in the oven at 180C (350F) until fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the walnuts into a clean cloth and rub together to scrub off some peel. Put in a food processor and grind - but just until chopped, not until it is butter.
Melt butter, pour over noodles and mix. Sprinkle over nuts and sweetener of choice.
Slize with eggs
Fresh noodles are mixed with egg for a delicious scramble. Perfect with a pickle.
- 1 tablespoon lard
- 2 or 3 eggs
- pinch salt
- handful or two slize
Melt lard in a frying pan. Whisk eggs in a bowl and salt and pour onto the warmed pan. When the eggs are partially cooked, add as much slize as you like. Stir until eggs are just barely cooked through.
Pani Obluana likes plants, and is looking forward to working in her garden, especially the flowers
She also enjoys cross-stitch, making this cloth as well as others in the house.
A weigh scale on the wall.
Apr 17, 2018 @ 15:24:50
Fab post. Reminded me of my grandma. She was a specialist noodlemaker….For the soup with smoked ribs (only meat), but you use the bones and beans….and veg…with a roux with flour for thickening.
Your next post should be about SCHUUULANCE (SCHUUUULANTSE), nobody ever made them in my family, there is some skill required, hands…
Apr 17, 2018 @ 22:15:21
Mmm, that soup sounds so good.
Sulance, another one to add to the list! I’ve had them once and they were so good. I’ll have to find someone to show me!
Apr 18, 2018 @ 11:04:02
My wife and twin daughters are making sulance as I type this 😀
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:22:12
I don’t think I knew you have twins! Cooking with kids is so special. Happy sulance eating!
Apr 17, 2018 @ 16:19:31
My mother made fresh noodles too when I was a kid. When she made them with the poppy seed, my sister and I loved them. Eventually my kids adored them as well. Thanks for bringing back some lovely memories.
Apr 17, 2018 @ 22:22:14
My pleasure 🙂
Apr 17, 2018 @ 17:07:03
Naomi, I really enjoyed reading your blog. Such a sweet lady. This brought back memories of my Mom and Aunt making noodles. The noodles were a little different, but my Aunt could really cut them thin. She was an expert. I Loved hearing Pani’s stories, gives me some insight into how my parents families lived. You mentioned cooking the noodles with scrambled eggs, I do that with leftover spaghetti noodles. My husband eats soup almost everyday (a real Slovak 🙂 so I’m thinking I may try to make these noodles for him. Also, my Mom used to make a filling for pizza dough from dry cottage cheese, it was a little sweet. Have you heard of anything like this? I’m not sure what else was in it. How I wish I would have paid more attention, and bugged them to get more of their stories.
Apr 17, 2018 @ 22:29:21
Thank you! I wish that I had gotten more stories from my own grandparents and their generation. So I make it up this way.
By the filling for pizza dough, do you mean Moravské koláče? A slightly sweet yeast dough is formed into flat discs and a dip made in the centre. The centre is then filled with tvaroh (like dry cottage cheese) and jam. Very yummy!
Apr 17, 2018 @ 17:13:13
Wonderful post. This so reminded me of my mother’s and grand mothers noodle cutting abilities. They could cut the thinnest noodle for soup using a knife and they’re fingers to guide. And so quickly it was done. How I miss watching them! My noodle recipe is the same as yours but now I have a mixer, roller and cutter to the work. I love making noodles. For me it is very therapeutic.
Apr 17, 2018 @ 22:33:33
Thank you! I always thought making noodles was so much work, but I liked this way of cutting the noodles.
Apr 18, 2018 @ 00:58:53
Naomi: Thank you for all the research and time you invest in educating all of us regarding Slovak ways. You mentioned a few times about cooking gluten free. How do you do it with so much of the staples being flour based? Would you recommend a flour substitute for the above recipe? The food all looks sooooo good! So looking forward to visiting that part of the country and seeing first hand my paternal family’s heritage. I am so envious of you getting to live a full life there…….maybe some day……!
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:30:42
Thank you! I personally don’t cook gluten-free on a regular basis anymore, but I know Slovaks who must be and manage to convert their recipes. For this particular recipe, I’ve seen similar gf recipes online, but for something similar I will try to get the sulance recipe up. The toppings are the same, but the sulance are made with potatoes, and so the sticky-ness of the potatoes holds them together. Like the loske (potato flatbread) recipe I have up. I will try to ask my friends what they do so I can include more gluten-free alternatives.
Apr 18, 2018 @ 05:00:58
Thank you so much, Naomi, lovely storytelling with your recipes.
But your spring remarks caught my interest, too. Could you please sometimes write a blog about how you use the foraged plants in your meals?
I’d love to read how you marry all those tastes together with any-day meals.
It cannot get more ”Earth Day” than this.
Think global, cook and eat local! 😉🌏🌎
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:27:18
I do have some foraged recipes in the recipe archives (click the recipes tag at the top), they have a special section. Right now it is lots of nettles and wild garlic. I use nettle like cooked spinach – with eggs, soup, stir-fries, pesto…
I do have a few more nettle recipes coming 🙂
Apr 18, 2018 @ 05:49:12
Oh, Naomi, how I love living vicariously through you…I was quite small when my great grandmothers passed. My grandparents cooked some of the ‘old’ recipes. My aunts try to replicate them, but they just aren’t quite the same…I SO enjoy your sharing the recipes, and your wonderful photographs!
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:25:37
Thank you! I think sometimes that special taste just comes from the person and is not possible to replicate. Although these recipes I post might help!
Apr 18, 2018 @ 07:18:09
Thank you Naomi. This reminds me of my mother making homemade noodles, usually for chicken noodle soup. She was Slovak and came to U.S. when she was 3 years old. She was a good cook. Wished I had paid more attention to her cooking, but I learned some cooking from her. Thanks again.
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:24:17
I’m glad this reminds you of her!
Apr 18, 2018 @ 08:52:07
Just had an idea. you’ll love…My ma makes the best poppy-strudl, from pulled dough, although cheating with filo pastry….no idea when going to sk, but WILL MAKE SURE, my ma shows you how to make it, and Ian will be happy speaking English, he is always relegated to his books as nobody speaks English… will give you plenty of warning…so no idea if kids are good travelling from Smolenice to Nove Mesto…anyway WILL ARRANGE SOMETHING…Mrs Obulana looks great for her age…Great heath to the future!
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:23:50
I’d love to! I know what it’s like to be in my own little world, I still remember those early days.
Nancy in Alberta
Apr 18, 2018 @ 08:53:54
What a beautiful post! My heritage is Brittish, so, no noodle making, but this was such a treat. You are doing a beautiful work in chronicling this almost lost art. I am drawn to the lovely photos of her hands at work! Thank you for all the time and effort that must have gone into this post.
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:22:55
Yes, I love photos of hands at work too. Thank you for your kind words!
Apr 18, 2018 @ 14:55:56
Hello again sweet girl, Loved the noodle story, Mom used to make noodles
for soup and she would make them for herself with lekvar , which is prune
butter (jam). she told me her mother made soup from fruit, like cherries.
We were a family of soup eaters also, always on Sundays it was chicken soup.
Pane Mom used to call my sister in law Pane Jean was Polish and she Slovak
The pictures of noodle dough making , the loving hands of my Mother doing it
exactly the same method. Thank you for keeping me on your list.
Yesterday I made Moms beef shortrib soup. So warming and satisfying.
Sending Hugs to you, Denise Kiral,Howarth, Horvath, Bryer family names.
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:20:52
I’ve heard of sweet soups, but I think it might be more common down towards Hungary, I haven’t tried it myself. Sundays, of course chicken soup! We love soup here too, beef short rib sounds excellent.
Jolanda Reisman Kintzer
Apr 18, 2018 @ 22:19:28
What wonderful memories. I lived in Bratislava and and left for the USA in 1939. We had all those foods. I am looking for Vera Lustig and Magda Gutman. Both maiden names. Did they survive the War? Jolana Reisman Kintzer
Apr 20, 2018 @ 11:19:19
Wow, what memories you must have! I will look into how to search for people in Slovakia.
Apr 18, 2018 @ 23:47:25
Thank you so much for doing this post! When I was a kid, my Mom would make a soup from a cookbook that our Slovak church sold (and someone gifted to her when she was a newlywed). The soup was called Slovak Christmas Soup with Popsun Noodles. I’ve since inherited the cookbook, and I can make popsun noodles, which are basically small dumplings, but I yearned for something more like these noodles from Mrs. Obluana. There’s something about homemade noodles like these…can’t wait to try them :).
Apr 19, 2018 @ 08:59:33
Homemade noodles are sooo good. Let me know how they turn out!
Apr 29, 2018 @ 22:57:59
I enjoyed reminiscing growing up with Slovak parents & their cooking. I also watched them make noodles(cut so fine) Mary
May 03, 2018 @ 11:56:34
I’m glad you enjoyed those memories.
Jul 06, 2018 @ 23:44:39
Enjoyed watching Teta make her noodles. All looked so familiar.
Jul 17, 2018 @ 14:46:16
Glad you enjoyed it!
Aug 12, 2018 @ 10:36:39
I love your blog very much…..I’m Slovak and read a lot of food blogs. Yours is special, because of all this traditional foods. For me it’s special not about recipes (it doesn’t mean I don’t like them) but the stories:)
About slíže I would have two recomendation for you. We eat tvarohové slíže, but salty version, with sour cream aside. It’s especialy good, whe you warm it up on pan with a little oil and it gets brown. And the version with eggs and picles try to add few klobasa slices:))), so you start with klobasa, the red fat comes out than you add slíže and at the end you add eggs.
Aug 21, 2018 @ 11:37:31
I’m so glad you enjoy the blog! I hope to have more stories coming (once the kids are back in school), those are special to me too and I’m so blessed that these people have opened their homes to my camera.
Yum! A savory version of tvarohove slize with sour cream sounds so good! And the egg with klobasa. Thanks for the tips!