Romanian gastronomy, as well as Romanian culture, is a mirror of the fascinating history of the country. Romanians have always been involved in hunting, agriculture and animal husbandry. Despite this, at the beginning, the Romanian cuisine was quite poor in ingredients. In addition to meat, the Romanians used to eat dishes based on wheat, barley, rye, millet and stevia or any other edible green plants. After the discovery of America and the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes and corn in the European space, there was an auspicious change in the Romanian diet. Moreover, the domination of other peoples and migration brought flavor to the Romanian cuisine that was gradually completed. Even the Orthodox Christian Church, through the feasts of the great holidays it has ordained, has contributed to the gastronomic diversity of this territory.
However, it is not a novelty that Romanians like food. They like meat that should be as fat as possible, they like bread baked in wooden ovens, they like pies and jams, they like smoked cheese and a lot of other goodies that you must taste when you get here. So, don’t be shy to ask for Romanian food when in Bucharest or in Romania – you’ll be generously served. Restaurants from all over the country have included traditional Romanian dishes in their menu. So, during your trip to Bucharest, you have the opportunity to eat something absolutely traditional.
Here are 10 traditional Romanian dishes we recommend during your stay in Bucharest:
SARMALE CU MĂMĂLIGĂ (Mince Rolled In Pickle Cabbage With Polenta)
You will find SARMALE in every traditional restaurant you enter. They are a culinary preparation of minced meat (usually pork, but also beef, sheep, poultry, or even fish), mixed with rice and other ingredients, wrapped in rolled cabbage leaves. They are usually served with polenta and cream. To be really tasty, the SARMALES are boiled in a cast-iron cauldron or a clay pot over low heat. It is considered that if consumed after „staying” 2-3 days, they will have a special flavor.
Probably in your travels you have found sarmale in other countries, too. No wonder. They are also cooked in Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, and the Republic of Moldova, but only in Romania, you will eat SARMALES cooked this way. We guarantee they are the best but don’t take our word for granted, just order and you’ll taste for yourself!
MĂMĂLIGĂ CU BRÂNZĂ ȘI CU SMÂNTÂNĂ ( Polenta With Cheese And Cream)
Yes, the same polenta that you will receive with sarmale, can become an absolutely delicious dish with cheese and sour cream. Depending on the area from which it comes, it is cooked in many variants: with cheddar, bellows cheese, fresh or even sweet cheese. Sometimes it even has a fried egg on top. As simple as this dish seems, it’s as tasty as it gets!
CIORBĂ DE FASOLE CU CIOLAN (Bean Soup With Smoked Ham Hock)
Ciorba de fasole cu ciolan (Bean Soup With Smoked Ham Hock) is an integral part of Romanian cuisine. There are noticeable differences from area to area. In the south of the country, it is cooked with several vegetables. In Moldova, it is flavored with a lot of dills. In Transylvania, it is seasoned with cream, heavier with a spoonful of vinegar or borscht. Regardless of the area, bean soup with smoked ham hock remains a national good. We leave it to you to tell us what you think, but we are absolutely delighted with the Ciorba de fasole cu ciolan!
CIORBĂ DE BURTĂ (Tripe Soup)
There are several types of CIORBĂ DE BURTĂ (tripe or belly soup) in Romania, but we think you already know this. The most common options, however, are those based on cream and those served with garlic sauce and vinegar.
What exactly is Ciorba de Burtă? Belly soup is a beef soup based on vegetables: carrots, guillemots, celery with beef stew to which is added the main ingredient: beef belly cut into strips. What does Ciorba de Burtă taste like? Divine!
SARAMURĂ DE CRAP (Carp Brine)
As we said above, the Church has played an important role in the culinary culture of Romanians. During fasting periods over the year, there are days when believers are allowed to eat fish. So the Romanians competed in the preparation of fish.
SARAMURA DE CRAP (Carp brine) is a delight. A delicious sauce made from hot peppers, tomatoes, dill, pepper, and bay leaves. Carp completes the taste, and the polenta is the final note. Good appetite!
MICI (Skinless Sausages/Little Ones)
Romanian MICI is normally made from a mix of beef, pork, and lamb as well as spices that may include garlic, black pepper, thyme, and coriander. Even if you think you’ve eaten MICI in other places, well, you’re wrong. These are a Romanian invention from the 19th century.
Legend has it that the first MIC (Skinless Sausage) was eaten in the Old Center of Bucharest, being invented by chance. A skilled chef from the Capital, Iordache Ionescu, prepared several grilled dishes for his customers. The innkeeper Ionescu, as he was known among the local customers, had an exceptional sausage recipe, famous throughout the city. One day, the innkeeper was working hard on the grilled sausages, but the mats that wrapped the minced meat were gone. Seeing that the demands for sausages are more and more, Iordache Ionescu took a piece of the „sausage dough” and put it on the grill without any mat. The first to taste the innkeeper’s invention was impressed by the taste of the „little one”, and the new product became the star of the place in the city center.
If before the Second World War, on almost every street corner there was a bodega where MICI were served, today there is no restaurant with traditional food where the MICI is missing from the menu. Order them with French fries and mustard and quench your afternoon thirst with a cold beer!
POMANA PORCULUI (Pork Feast)
POMANA PORCULUI (Pork Feast) is an ancient custom. This is the Thanksgiving table for the help received in slaughtering the pig from relatives, neighbors, or friends and is offered after the work is completed by the host. Pork Feast is obtained by frying pieces of meat (muscle, liver, bacon, ribs, jaw, representing all parts of the slaughtered animal) in fat. Serve with polenta and a glass of wine. An honorable meal!
PAPANAȘI (Romanian Donuts)
PAPANAȘI is a kind of dessert made from sweet cottage cheese, eggs, flour, semolina, breadcrumbs, and sugar. They are normally served with cream and jam, but they are also served after being sprinkled with sugar.
A legend of donuts with a hole in the middle comes from Denmark. It is said that a ship’s captain, trying to turn the rudder while eating a donut, was caught in huge waves. Then he stuck his donut in one of the rudder spokes so he could use both his arms. Thus, the housewives took these donuts with the hole in the middle and adapted them to the culture of each country.
We are not saying that Romanian PAPANAȘI is among the best donuts with a hole in the middle that you have ever eaten. We say that Romanian PAPANAȘI is really the best donuts you will ever eat! Try them with cream and blueberry or cherry jam. You will feel that you have reached heaven!
PLĂCINTA (Romanian Pie)
The pies are a pastry product with an old tradition in Romania. Romanians eat cheese and raisin pie, apple pie, cabbage pie, meat pie, and the list can continue. Although they differ from country to country, pies are desserts made of dough, which hides a sweet or salty filling. And their forms are diverse. The Americans make them round, in tart trays, and with a dough pattern on top. In Romania, they fold them, while in Greece they roll them.
Regardless of the filling you choose, PLĂCINTA (Romanian pie) is a delight. You can find them in any traditional restaurant or at pastry shops that you will meet almost everywhere. Eaten hot, Romanian pies will brighten your day!
COZONAC (Romanian Easter & Christmas Sweet Bread)
The favorite dessert of the Romanians, the COZONAC, has a long history. At the origin of the Cozonac is bread, and leavening and baking techniques have evolved over time.
Romanian tradition says that if you have a COZONAC on the table, it means that you are celebrating. This is how, during the holidays, Romanian housewives start kneading the Cozonac dough. Whether it will be filled with walnuts and cocoa or Turkish delights, the Romanian COZONAC is a must-have dessert for Christmas or Easter.
However, you will find it all year round at cake shops. We recommend that you do not miss it. A slice of COZONAC and a glass of milk will give you energy and will fill you with goodwill!