In a brief Internet search, we notice that there are a lot of stereotypes about Romanians, many describing them as gypsies and thieves. Certainly most of these are rumors started by people who have never visited Romania and who have never met its residents. Romanians are hospitable and cheerful people who know how to value quality meals and parties and have a very rich culinary tradition.
Romanian hospitality will definitely captivate you from the first moment. Guests are welcomed with open arms in any home and you should not be surprised if you will be offered a small treat. Romanians are proud of their specialties and they will serve you with great joy every time they can.
Romanian food is heavily influenced by neighboring countries and the Balkans area, especially by Turkey, Hungary and Russia. Meat is the basic ingredient of most Romanian dishes, but is almost always combined with vegetables, grains and aromatic spices. Pork, beef, chicken, mutton and fish are combined with fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, vegetable stews or rice. Eggplant, cabbage, carrots, and green beans are also very popular. Pumpkin and beets can be found even in sweet baking.
One of the most important grains in Romania is corn, an ingredient also used for cooking one of the most popular Romanian dishes: polenta. It is served in a variety of combinations, often with cheese, sour cream and milk. There is a unique and very tasty recipe called Bulz: polenta is shaped in the form of small balls, stuffed with smoked cheese and then fried on the grill.
Another traditional dish to eat is ciorba, which the Romanians consume at lunch. It is a meal similar to soup, but vegetables and meat are left to boil in large pieces. In addition, the taste is sour and very refreshing. If you visit Romania, you will be definitely encouraged to eat sarmale, some stuffed cabbage rolls with pork or beef. They are delicious and are often eaten with sour cream and pepper. And do not miss the traditional cheese from sheep’s milk or goat, very flavorful and healthy. If you get a chance, visit a traditional sheepfold, where you will see how this type of cheese is produced.
Mici – the Romanian food invented by accident
You can not ignore micii, a dish resembling a long meatball. Micii were created after the chef of one of the most respected 19th-century Romanian restaurants, Hanul lui Manuc, was left without ingredients for sausages. He still had to feed the guests at the wedding, so he shaped and fried sausage stuffing, directly on the grill.
When it comes to alcohol, Romanians will always prefer hard liquors, served as an appetizer. These include plum brandy, fruit drinks and traditional tuica and palinca, all with a fairly high alcohol content, from 40 to 60-70 percent. These drinks are home made in many areas of the country.
The Romanians do not only consume such drinks. The wine industry is also very developed, and in Romania there are dozens of areas with multiple vineyards and wineries. Romanian wines are suitable for all tastes, the most popular being Cotnari, Murfatlar – mostly sweat, Odobesti, Tarnava Mare, Dealu Mare – white dry wine, and Valea Calugareasca.
Different areas, different tastes
Visit Transylvania and you will enjoy the unique taste of Goulash! It is a delicious dish made of beef or pork, potatoes, onions and peppers, and the recipe comes from Hungary. In the city of Cluj-Napoca you will often meet a local specialty called Varza a la Cluj, a dish made of cabbage with tomato sauce, vegetables and smoked bacon. Going towards Banat, you can try a unique dessert: galusti cu prune. These are like balls of dough filled with fresh plums and wrapped in bread crumbs. In Dobrogea you can enjoy fresh fish from the Danube and Black Sea, cooked in many different ways.
How about vegetarians?
Although Romanians are prone to eating meat, this does not mean that Romania is not a destination suitable for vegetarians, especially considering that in rural areas you will find many locals who have their own garden and where you can eat organic fruits and vegetables. In addition, there are many recipes for meatless foods like potato stew or vegetable stew, pilaf with vegetables (made of rice), vegetable ciorba, eggplant salad or mashed bean salad.