Romanian dishes are full of tradition, love, and pork fat (yes!)
Ah, Romanian food. Why didn’t I know this before? I enjoy learning about other cuisines and trying to replicate them at home. How Korean of me. Traveling in a country that loves food is always a huge benefit to those who enjoy food, like me. We had so much fun eating in Romania. For one month, we ate many typical Romanian dishes as well as preparing some at home.
three types of pork in tomato sauce with a side of polenta
This was the very first Romanian dish I had and I fell in love from the first bite. I mean, what’s not to like? There are three different kinds of meat stewed in tomato sauce. It’s usually prepared with chunks of pork, bacon, and sausage. A fried egg and polenta complete the dish. Tochitura is also occasionally prepared with internal organs, like kidney, heart, and liver.
There are many Korean dishes that are prepared in similar ways to tochitura, like dakdoritang. Eating this type of food always gives me a certain feeling, that’s very homey and familiar like eating at home. That might be why I loved this dish so much. I tasted the same dish in many different restaurants like a good foodie would do.
The cabbage roll is the most significant Romanian food. It’s called sarmale, which is a generic name for a dish made of minced meat rolled with cabbage or vine leaves. Romanian sarmale is made with cabbage. It’s usually served with polenta and sour cream.
There are many cultures that make cabbage rolls, such as gobalki in Poland and halupki in Slovakia. Sarmale in the neighboring country Moldova is a bit different than Romania’s but for sure, it’s a comfort food of many cultures.
To celebrate Christmas overseas, I tried recreating sarmale at home. I carefully prepared the sauerkraut and filling: mixed ground pork and beef, white rice, tomato paste, onion, and herbs. Following the instructions, I stacked them, placed pieces of smoked bacon in between, and slowly cooked them for a couple of hours. How did it turn out? Well, I have to say, it was darn good for the first try. I made sarmale again before we left Bucharest and the second time was definitely better. Maybe I’ll make a separate blog post about how to make sarmale at home.
Ciolan afumat cu fasole
Smoked pork knuckle is perfect for a day when you want hearty food. It used to be an army favorite, as it provides a good amount of fat and protein. This dish is often served with sour cabbage (sauerkraut) and baked beans. You just can’t go wrong with pork knuckle however it’s cooked, like jokbal of Korea and Schweinshaxe of Germany. Be careful, it usually comes in a huge portion.
Directly translated as ‘sacrifice of pig’ or ‘pork feast’, pomona porcului is made with different parts of pork. It comes from an ancient tradition to thank those who helped in processing the pig (butchering and so on). For the feast, all parts of the pig are fried in its own fat.
Maize flour is widely used in Romanian cuisine, usually as the side of a meat dish. It’s called mamaliga or sometimes polenta. Traditional mamaliga is made with cornmeal, boiling water, salt in a cast iron skillet. It’s made thick when it’s eaten as a bread substitute, to the point that it can be cut in slices. Sewing thread is used to cut it since mamaliga sticks to metal surfaces. Sometimes it’s made to the consistency of porridge. Mamaliga is like a bowl of rice to a Korean meal.
Ciorbă de burtătripe soup with sour cream
tripe soup with sour cream
Tripe in soup with sour cream; it sounds very unlikely. But this unusual combination works very well in Ciorbă de burtă. Any dish with tripe or other organs is usually made with strong ingredients (spicy, commonly) to hide the smell of animal. But not in Romania.
When I was recommended to try tripe soup in Romania, I wasn’t sure. Food made with organs are usually not my favorite. But I was intrigued. What came to me was a bowl of yellow soup. Why is this yellow, I wondered? Soon I didn’t regret ordering this yellow dish made with cow’s stomach. It looks odd but the taste is very sophisticated and complex. Romanian soup is often made with bors, fermented wheat bran, seasoned with vinegar, and eaten with sour cream. It’s also an excellent hangover cure.
Ciorbă de văcuță
Romanian beef soup
There are many versions of beef soup that can be found in every region of Romania. However it’s made, it’s delightful. It was one of our go-to soups. It’s cooked with chunks of beef, various vegetables (bean, carrots, onion, celery, tomato, and so on), and topped with parsley, dill, and sour cream.
Ciorba de fasole
Romanian bean soup
It’s one of the most traditional dishes in Romania. It’s cooked with beans, tomato paste, and various vegetables. It’s also often cooked with smoked bacon.
sausage covered in pretzel
Our favorite street food in Romania, covridog is a cremwurst covered in warm pretzel dough. There’s nothing better than a warm covridog on a cold day in Romania! Covrigi is Romanian baked goods similar to pretzels and there are a lot of variations with the same ingredient.
Whenever we went to a market, we came back with a bag full of smoked bacon. It’s something that needs to be at home at all times for snacking and cooking. It’s an excellent ingredient to add extra flavor to your dish!
Plăcinte cu brânză dulcedeep fried dough with sweet cheese
deep fried dough with sweet cheese
Deep fried dough is a great way to prepare a dessert, especially if it’s filled with sweet cheese. Plăcinte is often prepared with sweet fruits like plums, raisins, and apple.
I’m sure there are many delightful Romanian foods out there but this is the sum of what I’ve experienced for a month traveling and living in Romania this winter. Now I know where to start when I visit Romania next time.