It is fairly certain that this Hungarian cheese noodle pie originates from Transylvania. However, exactly which city can boast of being the birthplace of the sweet dish is debated.
According to Tatár Zoltán (A vargabéles legendája – Kolozsvári magyarok eltűnt munkahelyei nyomában), the recipe, more precisely, the person knowing the recipe, moved from Târgu Mureș to Cluj-Napoca at the beginning of 1920s. This person was Mrs Ferenc Aszalós, née Anna Borbáth, who passed on the recipe to her daughter, Mrs Darvas. It was Mrs Eszter Darvas who perfected the dish and made it so widely popular.
Vargabéles is a boiled flat ribbon-like strips pasta. It is sprinkled with warm butter and mixed with cottage cheese. Then it is thinned with sour cream, bound with eggs, sweetened with sugar, flavored with vanilla and/or lemon peel and baked to perfection. Vargabéles is a filling dessert, still present in houses and restaurants of Transylvania.
The preparation was done in a special way. First, a thin sheet of dough was placed in the tray. Then 2 cm pasta was prepared, which was boiled in salted water and mixed with melted butter. The yolks were rubbed with sugar; and the egg whites were whipped and mixed with sweet cream, semolina and raisins. Another version for the filling was cottage cheese mixed with sour cream in equal parts. Another dough sheet was put on the top and cooked in the oven over low heat. When cooled, it was cut in cubes of just the right portion size, powdered with icing sugar and served.
Mrs. Darvas was known for carefully selecting each ingredient she used. Therefore, the flour, the butter, the cream and the eggs all had to be of the highest quality. However, it was actually an unfortunate event that led to the widespread success of Mrs. Darvas’s dessert. One day, no cottage cheese arrived for Mrs. Darvas. Nevertheless, she had a lot of orders to cater to, so she had to use a small trick. She made her own cottage cheese from slightly sour milk, giving the noodle pie a piquant taste. This new taste was a huge success.
Once a very popular dessert, vargabéles has lost its former splendor today. It is still prepared in households in Transylvania, especially in Hungarian families, but also in several restaurants. For older people, especially those who left Transylvania and settled in Hungary, this dessert is the taste of childhood. The interest in preparing this dessert has decreased, especially in restaurants, to the detriment of more sophisticated desserts or other sweet dishes considered fashionable today, but which have nothing to do with the local cultural identity.
Vargabéles is a delicious filling dessert, but it can be also savored as a second-course meal. Simple to prepare, with unpretentious ingredients, this tasty dessert, easy to digest, is especially to the liking of children; and for adults who have known it since childhood, it is a nostalgic dish.
This dessert is what is called a comfort food, and it is not associated with a particular holiday or time of the day/year. One only has to choose the best quality ingredients, exactly as Mrs. Darvas was renowned to select the raw ingredients.