Planning a trip to Romania and looking to explore Romanian cuisine while you’re there? Romania may be a land of beautiful castles and gorgeous towns, but it is also famous for some of its delicious traditional Romanian dishes. Here are our recommendations for the best Romanian food to try while you’re exploring the country. And if you end up loving it, you can always take some home as a souvenir!
Ciorbă is the famous sour soup eaten in Romania in Eastern Europe. It’s a common dish and derives from tougher times in the country’s history when food was scarce so the common people made use of whatever ingredients available to them. The soup consists of various vegetables and meat. It’s also thought to have medicinal value by many and can include pretty much any kind of meat or no meat at all. It would be just ordinary soup if it weren’t for the addition of acidity which can include lemon juice, Borş (fermented barley water), or sauerkraut juice.
I tried Ciorbă for the first time in a restaurant in Bucharest called La Copac (the tree). It’s a beautiful restaurant with an ancient tree at its center offering really delicious Romanian food. My friend, who is a local, took me to the restaurant and let me in on a little secret…most Romanians prefer their Ciorbă even more sour so they add sour cream to it. The soup will warm you up and make you feel delightfully full! But make sure you leave room for a nice drink! Check out these favorite local Bucharest boozes to go with your Ciorbă.
Contributed by J. Harvey from My Normal Gay Life.
Palinka is the name of a brandy made by fermenting fruits. In Romania, these are usually plums, apples, pears, and cherries.
To make it, the fruit is pressed to get a pulp. Seeds are then removed and it is left to ferment for 10 to 15 days in an anaerobic environment, between 14º and 16º of temperature. Later, it is distilled in a copper pot and finally aged in metal (or wood if it is plum palinka) casks.
Traditionally, it used to be drunk before eating, as an appetizer. Today, it is used more like a digestive at the end. Anyway, any time can be good and it is so widespread that you can find palinka even at Romanian music festivals!
The best temperature to consume it is between 10 and 15 degrees. In addition, it has its own rituals. To know them, what better way to visit Romania and check it yourself? I guarantee you will not spend 24 hours in the country without someone inviting you to a shot of palinka.
There is no Romanian food staple as versatile and ubiquitous as polenta. While the dish may have originated in Northern Italy, its importance to Romanian cuisine is very notable as the locals know how to fry, grill, or bake it was such perfection that it adds an intense depth of flavor and excitement to any dish they choose to pair it with. Referred to as ‘mamaliga’, the corn-based side dish (or main dish, if you’re lucky) is often sturdier than its relatives that you’ll find in other parts of Europe but you can sometimes find it served creamily.
The tradition of polenta in Romania has to do with the country’s peasant history and it was a cheap dish to make that filled up hard laborers. As the country evolved into several different chapters, the dish stayed pretty much the same and it has remained simple and unpretentious and can be found on every dinner table in Romania frequently. To read more about my time in Romania, check out Things to Do in the Danube Delta.
Contributed by Megan Starr from Meganstarr.com.
Ask any local in Romania about what’s the most typical Romanian food and I can bet you you’ll hear: Sarmale. Just like most Romanian dishes, this meal can be found in many different variations around the country but also the region. In Turkey, you could find it under the name sarma, in Hungary, it will be töltött or káposzta. This delicious dish usually consists of meat and rice stuffing inside of vine or cabbage leaves which are rolled into a tidy roll, often served with polenta or just on its own. It can be easily found anywhere in Romania, but I have to suggest you a traditional Romanian restaurant in Cluj-Napoca, where I’ve lived for several months: Roata. The atmosphere of this place and homemade taste of sarmale will feel like heaven.
Contributed by Diana from CzechSouls.com.
Zacusca is a staple food in the Romanian kitchen. It is mostly eaten as a spread, on bread, either for the traditional Romanian breakfast or in a sandwich.
Whilst these days it’s easy to find it in the supermarkets, Romanian women still spend a lot of time in autumn to make homemade zacusca from scratch. The spread is made usually out of a mix of sweet peppers and aubergines, which are chargrilled over an open fire, on an outdoor grill or on the flame of the stove. The vegetables are peeled and then chopped to be mixed together and put in jars, for the winter. It is a very laborious work and it takes days for the zacusca to be made, especially that locals usually buy 10-20 kg of vegetables at one time.
Every child in Romania has and is growing up with zacusca. You can sometimes find it in traditional Romanian restaurants, but if it’s not on the menu then don’t hesitate to make a Romanian friend! Their moms will have some stored for winter.
Contributed by Joanna Nemes from The World in My Pocket.