Romanian cuisine is a diverse blend of different dishes from several traditions with which it has come into contact, but it also maintains its own character. It has been greatly influenced by Ottoman cuisine, while it also includes influences from the cuisines of other neighbours, such as Germans, Serbs, Bulgarians and Hungarians.
Quite different types of dishes are sometimes included under a generic term; for example, the category ciorbă includes a wide range of soups with a characteristic sour taste. These may be meat and vegetable soups, tripe (ciorbă de burtă), and calf foot soups, or fish soups, all of which are soured by lemon juice, sauerkraut juice, vinegar, or traditionally borş. The category ţuică (plum brandy) is a generic name for a strong alcoholic spirit in Romania, while in other countries, every flavour has a different name.
Cheese was known since Ancient history. Brânză is the generic word for cheese in Romanian. This word is from Dacian, the language of the pre-Roman population of present-day Romania.
The Dacians produced wine in massive quantities. Once Burebista, a Dacian king, angered by the wine abuse of his warriors, cut the vines; his people gave up drinking wine. Legend says that the Dacian people created their own beer.
With Romans, came a certain taste, rooted in the centuries for the pastry made with cheese, like alivenci, pasca, or brânzoaice. Introduction of porridge by the Romans, who eat millet porridge called polenta.
For 276 years, Romania was under the rules of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish cuisine changed the Romanian table with appetizers made of eggplant, peppers or other vegetables, various meat preparations like spicy chiftele. And a unique procession of sweets, pastries combining honey and nuts, such as baklava, halva, and rahat, which is used in cakes.
Romanian recipes bear the same influences as the rest of Romanian culture. The Turks have brought meatballs (perişoare in a meatball soup), from the Greeks there is musaca, from the Austrians there is the şniţel, and the list could continue. The Romanians share many foods with the Balkan area (in which Turkey was the cultural vehicle), with Central Europe (mostly in the form of German-Austrian dishes introduced through Hungary or by the Saxons in Transylvania) and Eastern Europe. Some others are original or can be traced to the Roman or other ancient civilizations. The lack of written sources in Eastern Europe makes impossible to determine today the punctual origin for most of them.
One of the most common meals is the mămăliga, a type of polenta, served on its own or as an accompaniment. Pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine, but also beef is consumed and a good lamb or fish dish is never to be refused.
Before Christmas, on December 20 (Ignat's Day or Ignatul in Romanian), a pig is traditionally sacrificed by every rural family. A variety of foods for Christmas prepared from the slaughtered pig consist of the following:
Cărnaţi — sausages
Caltaboş — sausages made with liver
Tobă and piftie — dishes using pig's feet, head and ears suspended in aspic
Tochitură — pan-fried pork served with mămăligă and wine ("so that the pork can swim").
Piftie - inferior parts of the pig, mainly the tail, feet and ears, are cooked refinely and served in a form of gelatin
Jumari - small pieces of pig meat are fried and tumbled through various spices
The Christmas meal is sweetened with the traditional cozonac, a sweet bread with nuts and rahat for dessert.
At Easter, lamb is served: the main dishes are roast lamb and drob de miel – a Romanian-style lamb haggis made of minced organs (heart, liver, lungs) wrapped and roasted in a caul. The traditional Easter cake is pască, a pie made of yeast dough with a sweet cottage cheese filling at the center.
Romanian pancakes, called clătită, are thin (like the French crêpe) and can be prepared with savory or sweet fillings: ground meat, white cheese, or jam. Different recipes are prepared depending on the season or the occasion.
Wine is the preferred drink, and Romanian wine has a tradition of over three millennia.Romania is currently the world's 9th largest wine producer, and recently the export market has started to grow. Romania produces a wide selection of domestic varieties (Fetească, Grasă, Tamâioasă, and Busuioacă), as well as varieties from across the world (Italian Riesling, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Muscat Ottonel). Beer is also highly regarded, generally blonde pilsener beer, made with German influences. There are also Romanian breweries with a long tradition.
According to the 2009 data of FAOSTAT, Romania is the world's second largest plum producer (after the United States), and as much as 75% of Romania's plum production is processed into the famous ţuică, a plum brandy obtained through one or more distillation steps.
-Borş is fermented wheat bran, a souring agent for ciorbă
-Borş de burechiuşe
-Ciorbă is the traditional Romanian sour soup
-Ciorbă de burtă (tripe soup)
-Ciorbă de perişoare (meatball soup)
-Ciorbă de fasole cu afumătură (bean and smoked meat soup)
-Ciorbă de legume (vegetable soup)
-Ciorbă de peşte "ca-n Deltă" (fish soup prepared in the style of the Danube Delta)
-Ciorbă de praz is a leek soup
-Ciorbă de pui is a chicken soup
-Ciorbă de salată cu afumătură (green salad and smoked meat soup)
-Ciorbă de sfeclă
-Ciorbă ţărănească (peasant soup)
-Supă (generic name for sweet (usually clear) soups,made out of vegetables alone or combined with poultry and beef. The difference between Supă and Ciorbă is that from Supă meat and most vegetables are removed, the resulted liquid being served with dumplings or noodles
-Supă (de pui) cu găluşte (halušky, clear dumpling soup with chicken broth)
-Supă (de pui) cu tăieţei (clear noodle soup with chicken broth)
-Caltaboş/chişcǎ - a cooked sausage made of minced pork organs and rice, stuffed in a pig casing
-Cârnaţi - a garlicky sausage, as in Fasole cu cârnaţi
-Catavitz's - beef, cod and herring made into a soup
-Chiftele - a type of large meatball covered with a flour crust or breadcrumb crust
-Ciulama - white roux sauce used in a variety of meat dishes
-Ciulama de viţel - veal ciulama
-Ciulama de pui - chicken ciulama
-Drob de miel - a lamb haggis made of minced organs wrapped in a caul and roasted like a meatloaf; a traditional Easter dish
-Frigărui - Romanian-style kebabs
-Mititei (mici) - grilled minced-meat rolls
-Musaca - an eggplant, potato, and meat pie
-Ostropel - method of cooking chicken, pig or duck
-Papricaş - Goulash
-Pârjoale - a kind of meatbals
-Piftie - preparation is similar to the French demi-glace. Pork stock reduced by simmering is placed in containers, spiced with garlic and sweet paprika powder along with the boiled pork meat and left to cool. The cooled liquid has a gelatinous consistency.
-Slănină (şuncă) - pork fat, often smoked
-Şniţel - a pork, veal, or beef breaded cutlet (a variety of Viennese schnitzel)
-Cordon bleu şniţel - breaded pork tenderloin stuffed with ham and cheese
-Mosaic şniţel - a specialty of Western Romania, two thin layers of different meats with mushroom or other vegetable filling
-Sniţel de pui - breaded chicken breast cutlet
-Stufat - lamb, onion and garlic stew
-Tobă - sausage (usually pig's stomach, stuffed with pork jelly, liver, and skin)
-Tocană/tocaniţă - stew
-Tocăniţă vânătorească - venison stew
-Varză călită - steamed cabbage with pork ribs, duck or sausages
-Sarmale - minced meat with rice, wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves
-Salata de icre - roe salad
-Plachie din peşte - ragout of river fish with vegetables
-Saramură de crap - carp in brine
-Chiftele de peşte - fish cake
-Papricaş de peşte - fish paprikash
-Crap pane - breaded carp fillet
-Ghiveci cu peşte - vegetable stew with fish
-Macrou afumat - smoked mackerel fillet
-Ardei umpluţi - stuffed bell peppers
-Dovlecei umpluţi - stuffed zucchini
-Gulii umplute - stuffed kohlrabi
-Vinete umplute - stuffed eggplant
-Sarmale - stuffed cabbage rolls, also made with grape, dock leaves or many other leaves
-Ghiveci - vegetable stew or cooked vegetable salad similar to the Bulgarian gjuvec and the Hungarian lecsó
-Ghiveci cǎlugaresc - vegetable stew prepared by the nuns in the monasteries
-Iahnie - beans, spiced up, cooked until there's no more water and a soft sticky sauce binding beans together has formed
-Fasole batută - mashed beans, boiled beans are mashed up, spiced with salt, pepper and a bit of garlic, it's served with a diced and fried onions and tomato paste, sauce
-Mămăligă - cornmeal mush, also known as Romanian-style polenta
-Mâncare de mazăre - pea stew
-Mâncare de praz - leek stew
-Pilaf - rice, vegetables, and pieces of meat (optional), often wings and organs of chicken, pork, or lamb. Cooking method is very similar to risotto.
-Chifteluţe de ciuperci - chiftele made of mushrooms instead of meat
-Sniţel de ciuperci - mushroom fritter (şniţel is the Romanian spelling of the German word schnitzel (breaded boneless cutlet), but it may be used to mean any sort of fritter)
-Tocană de ciuperci - mushroom stew
-Ardei copţi - roasted peppers
-Murături - pickled vegetables (most often in brine but also using vinegar)
-Castraveţi muraţi - pickled cucumber
-Gogonele - pickled unripe tomatoes
-Varză murată - pickled cabbage
-Murături asortate - pickled mixed vegetables - onions, garlic, unripe tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, kohlrabi, beet, carrots, celery, parsley roots, cauliflower, apples, quince, unripe plums, small unripe watermelons, small zucchini, and red cabbage
-Mujdei - crushed garlic sauce
-Salată de boeuf - minced boiled vegetables with meat mayonnaise and a dash of mustard
-Salată de vinete - roasted and peeled eggplant, chopped onion, salt, mixed with mayo
-Salată orientala - potato salad with egg, onions, olives
-Salată de sfeclă - beet salad
-Salată de roşii cu ceapa - tomato and onion salad
The generic name for cheese in Romania is brânză, and it is considered to be of Dacian origin. Most of the cheeses are made of cow's or sheep's milk. Goat's milk is rarely used. Sheep cheese is considered "the real cheese", although in modern times some people refrain from consuming it due to its higher fat content and specific smell.
-Brânză de burduf a kneaded cheese prepared from sheep's milk and traditionally stuffed into a sheep's stomach; it has a strong taste and semi-soft texture
-Brânză topită is a melted cheese and a generic name for processed cheese, industrial product
-Brânză de coşuleţ is a sheep's milk, kneaded cheese with a strong taste and semi-soft texture, stuffed into bellows of fir tree bark instead of pig bladder, very lightly smoked, traditional product
-Caş is a semi-soft fresh white cheese, unsalted, sometimes lightly salted, stored in brine, which is eaten fresh (cannot be preserved), traditional, seasonal product
-Caşcaval is a semi-hard cheese made with sheep's or cow's milk, traditional product
-Năsal, traditional product
-Penteleu, traditional product
-Șvaițer, industrial product
-Telemea is similar to feta, traditional product
-Urdă - made by boiling the whey drained from cow's or ewe's milk until the remaining proteins precipitate and can be collected, traditional product
-Covrigi - pretzel
-Gogoşi - literally "doughnuts", but more akin to fried dough
-Rahat - Turkish delight
-Plăcintă - pie
-Colivă - boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and walnuts (often decorated with candy and icing sugar; distributed at funerals and/or memorial ceremonies)
-Cozonac - a kind of Stollen made with leavened dough, into which milk, eggs, sugar, butter, and other ingredients are mixed
-Orez cu lapte (rice with milk) -served with cinemon or jam
-Griş cu lapte
-Lapte de pasăre - literally "bird's milk", vanilla custard garnished with "floating islands" of whipped egg whites
-Cremă de zahăr ars
-Clătite - pancakes
-Turtă dulce - gingerbread
-Chec - coffee cake
-Papanași - a kind of doughnut made from a mixture of sweet cheese, eggs, and semolina, boiled or fried and served with fruit syrup or jam and sour cream
-Şarlotă - a custard made with milk, eggs, sugar, whipped cream, gelatin, fruits, and lady fingers; from the French Charlotte
-Prăjituri - assorted pastries
-Savarine - savarina
-Amandine - chocolate sponge cake with almond and chocolate filling, glazed in chocolate
-Joffre cake - invented at the Casa Capşa restaurant in Bucharest
-Mucenici - sweet cookies (shaped like "8", made of boiled or baked dough, garnished with walnuts, sugar or honey, eaten on a single day of the year, on 9 March
-Afinată - bilberry liqueur
-Horincă is a plum brandy, produced near the border with Ukraine
-Palincă' is a plum brandy, produced near the border with Hungary
-Rachiu is a fruit brandy
-Secărică is a caraway seed brandy
-Şliboviţă is a plum brandy, produced near the border with Serbia
-Ţuică is a plum brandy
-Turţ is a strong plum brandy, named after the village of Turţ in northwestern Romania
-Vişinată is a sour cherry liqueur
-Zmeurată is a raspberry liqueur
Mămăligă (Romanian pronunciation: [məməˈliɡə]) is a porridge made out of yellow maize flour, traditional in Romania and Moldova. It is similar to the Italian polenta.
Historically a peasant food, it was often used as a substitute for bread or even as a staple food in the poor rural areas. However, in the last decades it has emerged as an upscale dish available in the finest restaurants.
Historically, porridge is the oldest form of consumption of grains in the whole of humanity, long before the appearance of bread. Originally, the seeds used to prepare slurries were very diverse as millet or einkorn.
Before the introduction of maize in Europe in the 16th century, mămăligă had been made with millet flour, known to the Romans as pulmentum. Moreover, the Romans ate so much of it that the Greeks called them pultiphagonides (porridge eaters).
Corn's introduction in Romania
Maize was introduced into Spain by Hernán Cortés from Mexico and spread in Europe in the 16th century. Maize (called corn in the United States) requires a good amount of heat and humidity. The Danube Valley is one of Europe's regions ideal for growing wheat.
A Hungarian scholar documented the arrival of corn in Timişoara, in the Banat in 1692. In Transylvania, maize is also called 'cucuruz', which could imply a connection between Transylvanian and Serbian merchants, kukuruz being a Slavic word. Some assume it was either Şerban Cantacuzino or Constantin Mavrocordat who introduced corn in Wallachia, Maria Theresa in Transylvania and Constantine Ducas in Moldova where it is called păpuşoi. The mămăligă of millet will be replaced gradually by the mămăligă of corn. The corn then becomes an important food, especially in the fight against famine that prevailed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The historian Nicolae Iorga noted that farmers of the Principality of Romania grew corn since the early-to-mid-17th century.
Etienne Ignace Raicevich, a Ragusan and consul of the Empire in Bucharest in the third quarter of the 18th century, wrote that corn was introduced only da poco tempo.
The existence of corn-based mămăligă is attested since 1873 in the edition of Larousse, a French dictionnary: mamaliga s. f. Boiled corn meal, in the Danubian principalities.
Traditionally, mămăliga is cooked by boiling water, salt and cornmeal in a special-shaped cast iron pot called ceaun or tuci. When cooked peasant-style and used as a bread substitute, mămăliga is supposed to be much thicker than the regular Italian polenta to the point that it can be cut in slices, like bread. When cooked for other purposes, mămăligă can be much softer, sometimes almost to the consistency of porridge. Because mămăligă sticks to metal surfaces, it can be cut with a string into slices, and is eaten by holding it with the hand, just like bread would be.
Mămăligă is often served with sour cream and cheese on the side (mămăligă cu brânză şi smântână) or crushed in a bowl of hot milk (mămăligă cu lapte). Sometimes slices of mămăligă are pan-fried in oil or in lard, the result being a sort of corn pone.
Since mămăliga can be used as an alternate for bread in many Romanian and Moldovan dishes, there are quite a few which are either based on mămăligă, or include it as an ingredient or side dish. Arguably, the most popular of them is sarmale (a type of cabbage roll with mămăligă.
Another very popular Romanian dish based on mămăligă is called bulz, and consists of mămăligă with cheese and butter and roasted in the oven.
Balmoş (sometimes spelled balmuş) is another mămăligă-like traditional Romanian dish, but is more elaborate. Unlike mămăligă (where the cornmeal is boiled in water) when making balmoş the cornmeal must be boiled in sheep milk. Other ingredients, such as butter, sour cream, telemea (a type of feta cheese), caş (a type of fresh curdled ewe cheese without whey, which is sometimes called "green cheese" in English), urdă (a type of curdled cheese obtained by boiling and curdling the whey left from caş), etc., are added to the mixture at certain times during the cooking process. It is a specialty dish of old Romanian shepherds, and nowadays very few people still know how to make a proper balmoş.
Mămăliga is a versatile food: various recipes of mămăligă-based dishes may include milk, butter, various types of cheese, eggs, sausages (usually fried, grilled or oven-roasted), bacon, mushrooms, ham, fish etc. Mămăliga is a fat-free, cholesterol-free, high-fiber food. It can be used as a healthy alternative to more refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta or hulled rice.
A gruel made of cornmeal, water, milk, butter, salt and sugar is called in Romanian cir de mămăligă. If it is exceedingly thin and made only of cornmeal, water and salt it is called mieşniţă or terci.
Depending on the context, mălai is the Romanian word for either:
The Romanian version of cornmeal
Any type of cereals or edible grains (much like the English corn), but this use of the word is becoming increasingly obsolete
Corn flour (i.e., maize flour) is called in Romanian mălai or făină de mălai.
Before the arrival of maize in Eastern Europe, mămăliga was made of millet flour, but nowadays millet mămăligă is no longer made.
Its analogue in Serbia and Bulgaria is called kachamak (Serbian: качамак/kačamak), (Bulgarian: качамак) and is served mainly with white brine cheese or fried pieces of pork fat with parts of the skin.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia (also "polenta" or "palenta"), Serbia (also "kačamak) and in Montenegro the dish is mainly called "pura". In Macedonia it is called "bakrdan" and in Slovenia "polenta". In Turkey a similar dish, called kuymak or muhlama is among the typical dishes of the Black Sea Region, although now popular in all the greater cities where there are many regional restaurants.
Oua de Paste (Easter eggs)-painted by hand