One peculiar way of discovering Romanian culture and traditions is to actually taste them on a culinary tour. Such vacations can include circuits to the most renowned wine cellars in the country or short stays in different places, famous for their organic products or unique preparation techniques.
Romanian dishes are not made to dazzle or impress through their sophistication, but to be filling and delicious. So Romanian cuisine can be easily described as comfort food with a home-made taste, a reflection of our agrarian roots.
What is Romanian food like?
Most dishes are based on pork, cabbage or potatoes, cheese, cereals and all types of fresh seasonal vegetables from the garden. Combined with passion, they turn into an unforgettable – and filling! – experience for your taste buds.
A variety of herbs is also present in Romanian cuisine. You will never find a properly cooked soup without a handful of freshly chopped parsley or lovage mixed with a variety of brightly colored vegetables. A Romanian soup is basically a rainbow in a bowl!
As you travel from region to region, you will quickly notice significant variations when it comes to food taste and cooking techniques.For example, in the region of Transylvania (central Romania) there are strong Germanic and Hungarian gastronomic influences while in Moldovia – Russian and Ukrainian. The Russians have also influenced the Danube Delta region, while in the capital Bucharest one can definitely recognize Balkan and Turkish influences.
As a famous Romanian novelist put it, “… the Romanians have selected, dosed and perfected: Hungarian papricas, the Serbian haricot, the Polish butter and cream foods, the Russian marinades, caviar and the Turkish “musaca” and “Iman baialdi”. […]. The cultures who know how to eat can’t just pass through time without leaving traces!” (C.Petrescu)
Traditional dishes in the regions of Romania
Again speaking about the region of Transylvania, Saxon, Romanian and Hungarian tastes blend into a unique mélange that today are proudly promoted as traditional Transylvanian cuisine.
There are many culinary tours in Sibiu that will take you exploring the beautiful countryside to meet local villagers, learn about their organic farming and taste their delicious traditional dishes! The recipes in this area are preserved from ancestral times and are characterized by impressive skills and techniques for turning all the fruits of the Earth into a feast of tastes.
Some of Transylvania’s signature dishes you should try are bean soup with smokedham, white bean dip, smoked ham hock and rustic cabbage,as well as all sorts of mouthwatering stews. Tochitura ardeleneasca is one such classic stew made with or without tomato (wine is usually the substitute for tomato) with a bunch of fresh vegetables like carrots, peppers, and potatoes. You may also find an alternative version called gulas, derived and adapted from the Hungarian guyas.
Moldavia and the Northern region known as Bucovina are also considered to be a blessed land with unparalleled cooking skills. While visiting UNESCO heritage monasteries, medieval fortresses and vestiges of Neolithic cultures that transcend the passage of time, you can enjoy some of Romania’s best dishes. Moldavian dishes are prepared in such a way that they are meant not only to satisfy the famished, but also awaken their senses.
Vegetables play a special role in Moldavian cuisine. Most of they are steamed, stuffed, pickled or slow cooked. Favorite vegetables include beans, peppers, onions, pumpkins, aubergines and potatoes. Garlic has a special places it represents the base of many Moldavian sauces that go with meat or vegetable dishes. In the past, garlic was also considered a natural remedy for treating colds, boosting your immunity and keeping bad spirits away – so one can never have too much of it!
One of their trademarks is the Radauti soup, which owes its great taste to a combination of chicken, vegetables, garlic and sour cream. This soup is perfect in the morning as a natural hangover remedy, but also enjoyed and highly appreciated by locals and tourists during lunch time.
Another delicious soup is called Storceag, but for that you will need to travel all the way to Danube Delta by the Black Sea. This is a signature dish made in the village of Sfantu Gheorghe with sturgeon as the main ingredient. The fish is boiled together with potatoes and other fresh vegetables and inthe last minutes of its cooking it is sprinkled with lemon and receives a dressing made of sour cream and egg yolk. It is usually slow-cooked outdoors in a kettle over an open fire and it is best served with in a group.
The Danube Delta is also described as birds’ paradise, being one of the most extended wetlands in the world and also a UNESCO natural heritage site. The Danube river is the main actor which creates a natural paradise where nearly 5.500 species of flora and fauna live.
Whether you let your taste buds guide you to these unique regions of Romania, or the beauty of the land and peoples’ friendliness will create the context for unforgettable culinary experiences, one thing is sure: you will definitely want to come back!