Don’t they say that the way to a country’s heart is through its food! Or something like that. Well, Romanian food can offer you a never-ending list of lip-smacking dishes, and yet leave you craving for more. Fragrant grilled sausages, sour cabbages stuffed with mincemeat, cornmeal with sour cream, fried dough, sweet cheese, baked potatoes stuffed with bacon are just some of them. No other country but Romania can provide all these items in one menu and call it breakfast! Yes, the dishes of Romania are meaty by nature, but considering the history and roots of the country, you will come to know why it is so. The conquering countries left their mark, as did the neighboring ones, so you are bound to find food influences from Germany, Hungary, Turkey and others. Here are some of the most popular dishes of Romania:
Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)
One of the best known and most well-known Romanian dishes, these are sour cabbage leaves wrapped around ground meat of your choice, ranging from sheep to beef, to chicken. Considered as a national dish, and rightly so, this can be your main course or a side one! Each restaurant has its own version, subtly different from the others, which makes for fun sampling. Some use grape leaves, some use pickled cabbage leaves, and others deconstruct it using cabbage leaves shaped as a candy wrapper.
Traditionally a shepherd’s dish, you don’t have to be one to try it in Romania. Buttery, cheesy, silky and sticky, this is an amazing Romanian dish. The basic recipe calls for boiled sour cream and butter, mixed with fine cornmeal and fermented cheese. There can be variations, of course! It is generally accompanied by a sausage of some sort and sweet cheese on top. If you do not want the meat, that’s an option as well. Either way, it is the perfect comfort food to warm you up during the cold heavy winters of Romania.
One of the corner stones of any great Romanian meal, the humble bean soup is made differently in the diverse regions of the country. A vegetable or meat broth is used, and white beans are added along with vegetables or cooked pieces of meat. If you find yourself in Transylvania, flour and sour cream are used to thicken it, whereas the lighter version of Moldova is flavored with tarragon or dill. In Bucharest, noodles and dumplings are added to make it into a complete meal.
The name of this dish can literally be translated to “little ones”. The ground meat rolls are grilled fresh when you order them. They are small and cylindrical in shape as they are not pressed into any casing . They are simply moulded like a sausage, and grilled on charcoals.
Enough with the fatty fried food, now it’s time for some sweet stuff! Here’s a rich, heavy dessert for all. It is prepared by using the following ingredients: milk, sour cream, raisins, wheat flour, corn, yogurt, vanilla and caster sugar. Believed to be a dish of the poor, Alivenci is the perfect treat to end your day.
Another favorite dessert of Romania, Papanasi is a sort of fried doughnuts made from wheat flour and sweet cheese, and served with fruit jam or orange marmalade. Till sometime back, pear or apricot jam was used. However, nowadays you can find anything from blueberry to acai jam for holding the two parts of the Papanasi together. Papanash is the perfect partner for a steaming hot cup of strong coffee.
In Romania, pickles are consumed with every meal on a daily basis. It is the apt, tangy way to cut through the rich fatty but delicious meals placed on the table. The commonest kind of pickle you can find here includes cucumbers in flavored and spiced vinegar. Cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, eggs, leeks and other seasonal vegetables find their way into the briny liquid. The pickles purchasable here travel well, so don’t forget to buy a jar of them for your close ones.
There are older and newer variations to suit all palates and preferences. There are some vegetarian dishes, some specifically vegan restaurants, and definitely a lot for poultry lovers. Yet red meat remains the belle of the ball, as they say. Romania is specifically a haven for meat lovers!