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 mainly influenced by Turkish and a series of European cuisines in particular from the Balkans, or Hungarian cuisine as well as culinary elements stemming from the cuisines of the Slavic-speaking countries of Eastern and Central Europe.
Romanian cuisine includes numerous holiday dishes arranged according to the mentioned season and holiday since the country has its roots in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Romanian dishes consist of vegetables, cereals, vegetable oils, milk, dairy products and meat.
There are quite a few different types of dishes, which 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 borș (traditionally made from bran). The category țuică (plum brandy) is a name for a strong alcoholic spirit in Romania.
In the history of Romanian culinary literature, Costache Negruzzi and Mihail Kogălniceanu were the compilers of a cookbook "200 rețete cercate de bucate, prăjituri și alte trebi gospodărești" (200 tried recipes for dishes, pastries and other household things) printed in 1841. Also, Negruzzi writes in "Alexandru Lăpușneanu": "In Moldavia, at this time, fine food wasn't fashioned. The greatest feast only offered a few types of dishes. After the Polish borș, Greek dishes would follow, boiled with herbs floating in butter, after that, Turkish pilaf, and finally cosmopolitan steaks".
Cheese has been a part of Romanian cuisine since ancient history. Brânză is the generic term for cheese in Romanian; it is originally a Dacian word. Traditional Dacian cuisine included vegetables (lentils, peas, spinach, garlic) and fruits (grapes, apples, raspberries) with high nutritional values. The Dacians produced wine in massive quantities. Once, Burebista, a Dacian king, angered by the wine abuse of his warriors, cut down the vines; his people gave up drinking wine.Legend says that the Dacian people created their own beer.
Romans helped introduce different pastries made with cheese, including alivenci, pască, or brânzoaice. They also introduced different variations of milletporridge.
Maize and potatoes became staples of Romanian cuisine after their introduction to Europe. Maize, in particular, contributed to health and nutrition improvements of Romanians in the 16th and 17th centuries, resulting in a population boom.
For more than four centuries, Wallachia and Moldavia, the two medieval Romanian principalities, were strongly influenced by their neighbor, the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman cuisine changed the Romanian table with appetizers made from various vegetables, such as eggplant and bell peppers, as well as various meat preparations, such as chiftele (deep-fried meatballs, a variation of kofta) and mici (short sausages without casings, usually barbecued). The various kinds of ciorbă/borș (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. Many traditional desserts and pastries combine honey and nuts, such as baclava, sarailie (or seraigli), halva, and rahat (Turkish delight).
Romanian recipes bear the same influences as the rest of Romanian culture. The Turks brought meatballs (perișoare in a meatball soup), from the Greeks there is musaca, from the Austrians there is the șnițel, and the list could continue. The Romanians share many foods with the Balkan area (in which Turkey was the cultural vehicle), and Eastern Europe (including Moldova and Ukraine). Some others are original or can be traced to the Romans, as well as other ancient civilizations. The lack of written sources in Eastern Europe makes it impossible to determine today the exact origin for most of them.
One of the most common meals is the mămăligă, the precursor 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 are prepared from the slaughtered pig, such as:
Cârnați – garlicky pork sausages, which may be smoked or dry-cured;
Lebăr – an emulsified sausage based on liver with the consistency of the filling ranging from fine (pâté) to coarse;
Sângerete (black pudding) – an emulsified sausage obtained from a mixture of pig's blood with fat and meat, breadcrumbs or other grains, and spices;
Tobă (head cheese) – based on pig's feet, ears, and meat from the head suspended in aspic and stuffed in the pig's stomach;
Tochitură – a stew made with pork, smoked and fresh sausage simmered in a tomato sauce and served with mămăligă and wine ("so that the pork can swim"). There are many variations of this stew throughout Romania, with some versions combining different meats, including chicken, lamb, beef, pork and sometimes even offal;
Pomana porcului—pan-fried cubed pork served right after the pig's sacrifice to thank the relatives and friends who helped with the process;
Piftie/răcitură – inferior parts of the pig, mainly the tail, feet, and ears, spiced with garlic and served in aspic;
Jumări – dried pork remaining from rendering of the fat and tumbled through various spices
The Christmas meal is sweetened with the traditional cozonac, a sweet bread made with nuts, poppy seeds, or rahat (Turkish delight).
At Easter, lamb is served: the main dishes are borș de miel (lamb sour soup), roast lamb, and drob de miel – a Romanian-style lamb haggis made from minced offal (heart, liver, lungs), lamb meat and spring onions with spices, wrapped in a caul and roasted. The traditional Easter cake is pască, a pie made from yeast dough with a sweet cottage cheese filling at the center.
Romanian pancakes, called clătite, are thin (like the French crêpe) and can be prepared with savory or sweet fillings: ground meat, cheese, or jam. Different recipes are prepared depending on the season or the occasion.
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 țuică, a plum brandy obtained through one or more distillation steps.
Vegetarianism / Veganism
Followers of the Romanian Orthodox Church keep fast during several periods throughout the ecclesiastical calendar amounting to a majority of the year. In the Romanian Orthodox tradition, devotees keep to a diet without any animal products during these times. As a result, vegan foods are abundant in stores and restaurants; however, Romanians may not be familiar with a vegan or vegetarian diet as a full-time lifestyle choice. Many recipes below have vegan versions, and the Vegetables section below contains many common fasting foods.
List of dishes
Ciorbă de cartofi
Ciorbă de burtă
Supă (de pui) cu tăieței
Borș is fermented wheat bran, a souring agent for ciorbă. Borș is also used today as a synonym for ciorbă, but in the past, a distinction was made between borș and ciorbă (acritură), the souring agent for the latter being the juice of unripe fruits, such as grapes, mirabelle, or wood sorrel leaves.
Ciorbă țărănească (peasant soup), made from a variety of vegetables and any kind of meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken, fish)
Storceag, fish soup with sour cream and egg, soured with vinegar or lemon juice.
Supă (generic name for sweet (usually clear) soups, made from vegetables alone or combined with poultry and beef). The difference between Supă and Ciorbă is that the meat and most of the vegetables are removed, the resulted liquid being served with dumplings or noodles. There are also a number of sour soups, which use lemon juice as a souring agent, called Supe a la grec (Greek soups).
Piftie - the preparation of this dish is similar to the French demi-glace. Pork stock is reduced by simmering, which is placed in containers, and spiced with garlic and sweet paprika powder. The boiled pork meat is then added, and left to cool. The cooled liquid has a gelatinous consistency.
Ghiveci - vegetable stew or cooked vegetable salad, similar to the Bulgarian gjuvec and the Hungarian lecsó
Ghiveci cǎlugăresc - vegetable stew prepared by the nuns in the monasteries
Iahnie - beans prepared with spices and cooked until there's no more water, forming a soft sticky sauce binding the beans together
Fasole batută - Romanian refried beans, uses white or Cannellini beans, with the addition of olive or sunflower oil and minced garlic. The dish is traditionally served with fried onions as a garnish.
Mămăligă - cornmeal mush, also known as Romanian-style polenta. Mămăligă can be served as a side dish or form the basis of further dishes, such as mămăligă cu lapte (polenta with hot milk), bulz (baked polenta with Romanian sheep cheese and sour cream), mămăliguță cu brânză și smântănă (polenta with telemea (Romanian cheese similar to feta) and sour cream), etc.
The generic name for cheese in Romania is brânză, and it is considered to be of Dacian origin. Most of the cheeses are made from 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 is 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 în coșuleț 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
Caș is a semi-soft fresh white cheese, unsalted or lightly salted, stored in brine, which is eaten fresh (cannot be preserved), traditional, seasonal product
Cașcaval is a semi-hard cheese made from sheep's or cow's milk, traditional product. The Cașcaval de Săveni is a type of cașcaval published as a Romanian protected geographical indication (PGI) product in the European Union.
Telemea, cow's or sheep's milk white cheese, vaguely similar to feta. The traditional "Telemea de Ibănești" is a type of telemea registered as a Romanian protected designation of origin (PDO) product in the European Union, while the "Telemea de Sibiu" is registered as a Romanian protected geographical indication (PGI) product in the European Union. Notably the "Telemea de Covurlui" is spiced with Nigella damascena seeds, which gives it a unique flavor.
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
Zămătișe - a type of cottage cheese.
List of desserts
Alivenci, corn and cheese pie in sweet and salted variants. Traditional dessert in Eastern Romania and Moldova.
Pelincile Domnului - a Moldavian type of pie made of honey-flavoured thin wheat cakes and hemp seed cream. Less and less exposure because of the confusion between Cannabis sativa (traditionally cultivated in Romania) and Cannabis indica (the THC-rich variety)
Ceai - prepared in the form of either various plant tisanes (chamomile, mint, tilly flower, etc.) or common black tea, called ceai rusesc in Romanian, which is Russian tea usually served during breakfast.