Romanians absorbed the centuries-old traditions of generations who inhabited these lands and neighboring countries: from the south – Greek and Roman, from the west – the Austrian, French, and German, in the north – Russian and Polish. Transforming into a symbiosis of these culinary trends, Romanian cuisine has peaked palatability, satiety, and relative simplicity.
Romanian cuisine is a mix of different dishes, derived from the many traditions that Romania’s gastronomy came into contact with, but also preserved its own distinctive features. The gastronomy of Romania was significantly influenced by Turkish cuisine, but also by the cuisines of other neighboring nations, such as the Germans, the Hungarians, and the Serbs. In the gastronomy of Romania, there are remains of French and Viennese cuisines and the cuisine of other West European countries. Under the influence of the Romans, a very tasty, Romanian traditional dessert – a dough with cheese, known as “alivents”, “branzoaice” and “pasca”, was created. During the celebration of Easter every year a traditional “Pasca” is prepared, along with a “cozonac”, which resembles an air cake and contains ratluk, walnuts, and hazelnuts. The results are starters and main courses with a simple homemade quality, built around staples such as pork, chicken, and lamb, but made special through the addition of plentiful, organic fruits and vegetables.
Romania itself was the last piece of the great Roman Empire. During its existence, it has suffered enough. These people brought to the Romanian land not only the hardships but also a piece of their culture, which was later absorbed to the Romanian cuisine.
Romania is divided into six historical provinces – Bucovina and Moldova, Dobrogea, Transylvania, Maramures, Wallachia, Banat – and in each of these provinces the methods of preparation of a particular dish is different. Romanian cuisine is an incredibly diverse and rich in cereals, soups, dishes from milk and vegetables.
More than four centuries, Wallachia and Moldavia, the two medieval Romanian principalities, were strongly influenced by their oriental friend, the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman cuisine changed the Romanian meal with delicacies made from various vegetables, such as eggplant and bell peppers, as well as various meat products, such as chiftele (deep-fried meatballs, a variation of kofta) and mici (short sausages without casings, usually barbecued). The various kinds of ciorbă (sour soups) and meat-and-vegetable stews, such as iahnie de fasole (beans), ardei umpluți (stuffed peppers), and sarmale (stuffed cabbage) are influenced by Turkish cuisine. The Romanian tomato salad is a variation of the Turkish çoban salata. There is a unique procession of sweets and pastries combining honey and nuts, such as baklava, sarailie (or seraigli), halva, and rahat (Turkish delight).
Romanian families are traditional, so they prefer a home-cooked meal at the table. Such feasts are valued in many ways even more than going to a nice restaurant.
Romanian housewives cook a lot and hearty. The home-cooked meal always consists of several courses, among which there is usually a soup, fried or boiled meat and pastries. They are very fond of salted and pickled vegetables that are served as a side dish. On the whole Balkan Peninsula consume large amounts of garlic and in Romania, they make a specific sauce of white bread, garlic and a pinch of walnuts.
Fully different types of meals are sometimes part of a common name. For example, the ciorba category includes a large number of soups with unique acidic taste. They can be soups of meat and vegetables, scabies or calves, all seasoned with lemon juice, sour cream, vinegar or traditionally boron-fermented wheat bran. The favorite main course in Romania is represented by mitites, brooches in soup and steak. The meal most commonly prepared in Romania is mamaliga, corn flour, which is eaten as a main course or appetizer or instead of bread. Mamaliga is a lean, very fibrous dish, without cholesterol. Apart from other delicious Romanian dishes, the “polenta” is most often used, which dates back to Roman times. It is a dish of coarse or finely ground corn yellow or white flour cooked on the water in the form of pulp and it eats, or burns.
Pork and chicken have a priority in the selection of meat in Romania, but beef and fish are also favorites. The Romanians are very fond of pork products – bacon, ham, chops and a variety of cured meat products. Porridge, baking and dishes cooked in a ceramic bowl of vegetables, salads, turkey and sour cabbage are the usual lunch in Romania. With meat meals, Turkey always uses turkey vegetables, prepared in salted water or vinegar. Among locals, smoked bacon is very popular. For preparing bacon they are using garlic, paprika, pepper but the smoking process gives the main flavor.
Along with the main course, salads are consumed, and “the most national” is the eggplant – salată de vignette. The popularity is followed by salad de cartofi, saladă de macaroane, salată de ţelină, salată de sfeclă and others.
They often put zacusca on bread – a vegetable spread similar to ajvar with eggplant or cooked beans.
A special chapter in Romanian cuisine is cheese. Brânză is a Romanian name for cheese. The Slavu acquired brânză de vaci (from cow cheese), melted brânză topită, urdă – whose process of production is similar to the Italian ricotta and the famous caşcaval – semi-hard Romanian cheese, telemea – similar to feta. After an extensive and good meal, it will sweeten with the already seen and always welcome baklava, Alva, donuts (gogos), cozonac or sweet bread similar to the Italian panettone, pruning lapta or rice pudding and traditional lapte de pasăre, Turkish delicacy rahat, pancakes and other delicacies.
Nearly every city and town have a traditional restaurant.
Traditional drink and Romanian wine
Romanian cuisine abounds in a variety of beverages. From soft drinks, Romanians prefer black coffee, black tea, compotes, and juices.
Romanians like to start dinner with their traditional schnapps – it is called tuica. Tuica is a strong plum schnapps, which is regarded as a traditional alcoholic drink throughout Romania, as well as a wine that has a tradition of nearly three millennia long.
The best tuica is made from black plum and called slivovitz. Plum brandy is stored in oak barrels for at least three years and has a buttery yellow color. It is believed that the best and the strongest tuica has made at home of Count Dracula in Transylvania.
The Romanian climate and land are very suitable for viticulture and cultivation of different grape varieties, and in Romania, they produce wines ranging from dry, sparkling to rich, aromatic and purple-red wines. The winemakers in the production use popular domestic grape varieties which include Frâncuşă, Fetească Albă, Tămâioasă, Fetească Neagră, Băbească. Since the 19th century, beer is popular in Romania. Sweet varieties of wine are most common in the provinces of Dobrogea and Moldova and dry wine is presented in Transylvania and Walachia.
The beer industry in Romania is poorly represented although beer is a very common drink, the best known local beer is Ursus.