Romanian cuisine is like a sponge. This is not a comment on the food itself but rather the fact that it has soaked up ideas from the surrounding countries and other cultures that have occupied the country in the past.
Well-travelled foodies may recognise influences from Germany, Austria, Greece and Turkey, whilst many dishes also resemble those found in neighbouring nations such as Bulgaria and Serbia.
Nevertheless, Romanian food still has its own clear identity and flavour, resulting in more than a few morsels which you should definitely try on any Bucharest city break. Here are some delicious options you’re likely to see on the menu.
Cabbage rolls like sarmale are a staple in Eastern European cuisine and Romania is no different. The cabbage leaves are stuffed with meat (typically pork but sometimes lamb or beef too), rice, herbs such as dill, and onion before being placed in an iron pot and covered in water.
Romanians claim that the best sarmale are those that use leaves that have been brined and a few slices of bacon to give a smokey, salty flavour. Preparing them a couple of days in advance to allow the flavours to combine before cooking is also a great way to get the best flavour.
Typically, the cabbage rolls are served with a polenta mash called mamaliga and a healthy dollop of sour cream.
Ciorbă is the term used for a number of different traditional soups that all have a distinct sour taste created by the addition of lemon juice or vinegar. There are many different types which are named in line with their main ingredient, but the bulk of them are made using vegetables like celery, carrots and pepper.
Ciorbă de burtă is tripe soup made with beef and pork bones as well as the beef tripe itself. An alternative, Ciorbă Rădăuțeană, was created in the 1970s for those who found the tripe too heavy. This version uses chicken instead and takes its name from Radauti, the city in which it was first produced. Finally, Ciorbă ardelenească de porc is another variety that originates from Transylvania and includes pork and rice.
Although the name of this dish translates as ‘Moldovan stew’, it brings together the best parts of Romanian cuisine to create something that will make every meat eater’s mouth water.
The meat comes in the form of traditional sausage or pork, which is fired on a skillet or stewed in a cast iron pan over an open flame. It’s then doused in white wine, tomato paste, onions and garlic and left to stew some more.
Before being served, a fried egg is added to the top so that the runny yolk can cover the meat once it is cut open. It’s joined on the plate by some mamaliga and a salty sheep’s cheese such as telemea. Delicious.
Salată de Vinete
If tochitură Moldovenească is for the meat lovers then salată de vinete is definitely one for the vegetarians. In essence, it’s an aubergine salad but that succinct summary doesn’t give it the justice it deserves.
This is one of the most popular starters in Romania but it’s also eaten as a prelude to Christmas dinner. The aubergines are roasted in the oven or under the grill and then the skins are taken off. The soft flesh is then chopped (Romanians have a special wooden knife for this) and mixed with a dressing of mayonnaise, salt, pepper and grated garlic. The resulting salad is usually then spread on some rustic bread with some tomatoes on top.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll know that no meal is complete without being rounded-off by something sweet – and papanași provide the perfect way to do this. The dessert is made with a cheese-based dough, produced by combining sweet cow’s cheese like ricotta with sugar and baking powder.
Once deep fried, a small ball of dough is then placed on top of a much larger ball (a bit like a slightly squashed snowman). There are various different toppings that can then be added, but the most traditional is sweetened sour cream and berries. Other options include marmalade, jam and powdered sugar.
If you would like to plan your own Bucharest city break or a trip to any other part of Romania to try these culinary delights, the Fred.\ Holidays team can tailor-make a holiday to suit you. Call us on 0800 988 3369 or click here to send an online enquiry.