I must admit it. I like food! One might say it is my preferred heuristic device for exploring new places.
When I first visited Romania, I was really curious about what this small country had to offer in the field of gastronomy. Back in Greece, I was accustomed to various dishes, and you may know that Greeks love to eat.
So how to break down the essential difference between my encounter with Romanian cuisine and that of my home country? Well, Greek food, for one, is cooked only using pure olive oil, which gives food a special taste, and it’s also very healthy. The best traditional salad is called “tsatsiki” – it is a mix between yoghurt, garlic, oregano and cucumber (very easy to make at home). It might sound odd, but it’s really tasty next to a “gyros” (sandwich with fries, green olives, fresh onions, feta cheese and tomatoes, all wrapped in a delicious savory flavor pita) or a “souvlaki” (skewers with lamb, beef or pork). Turks also had a very strong influence on our food, especially on desserts like baklava, halva, sherbet, or delights with almonds and pistachio.
Because we have many islands and the sea surrounding us, it only makes sense that we would like any dish involving fish and seafood. We are known worldwide because of our skills in preparing crab, calamari, shrimp, and octopus. They perfectly match with a glass of Recina (Greek white wine) or if you are bold, Ouzo (a drink made of aniseed spirit).
Greek people love to eat and party at the same time: it’s a ritual
We play bouzouki music while we enjoy our simple but tasty food, and atmospherics is everything for a Greek. If we are in the mood, we might break some plates (Greek tradition) and dance after a lovely meal.
In Romania, things are different. The atmosphere during the meal is more rigid (no one breaks any plates, for instance), but the cuisine, you may need to know, is exquisite! I took a trip once with the specific purpose of seeing how the food tastes in different regions of Romania because I had been so exposed to everyon raving about the greatness of their cuisine. I had to convince myself if what they told me was true or not.
First stop: Bucharest – one word: diversity
In the capital of Romania, I discovered some distinguished restaurants, old ones that have been around since the golden age of the city. Here I had some traditional dishes like “mamaliga” – a maize porridge (they eat this instead of bread mixed with cheese and cream), and “mititei” (grilled minced-meat rolls). For dessert, I was served cheese dumplings and some traditional sponge cake with honey, cinnamon and nuts- a delight for my taste buds.
Second stop – Transylvania
After visiting Bucharest, I took the train to the dreaded territory of Transylvania.
Here all the food had Hungarian influences. The main dish was a spicy soup (“goulash”) with pork meat, spiced with red paprika and tarragon. If you are a vegetarian, you can try some sweet salad. Curiously enough, the salads here are not salty but sweetened with honey or brown sugar. The dessert was an oval cheese and raisin pie called “lichiu”. Yummy!
Last stop: Moldavia
Moldavia is a region in the eastern part of Romania. Rumor has it that Moldavians are great cooks and I had to see for myself. Even though I saw some similarities with Russian cuisine, they exceeded themselves. The best soups here are with meat and vegetables and are soured with “bors”. I also enjoyed “sarmale”, a traditional holiday dish (stuffed cabbage) that was served with sour cream. It was a treat!
Romanians are famous for their excellent wines. Red, white, dry or sweet, you name it and they’ll have it! They also have “visinata” (sweet drink made from distilled cherries), delicious for the ladies, and men must take a sip of “tuica” (plum brandy).
My advice? Book a flight and come visit Romania as soon as possible if you are a food lover!