Gastronomy of Romania

Romanian cuisine is a diverse blend of different dishes from several traditions with which it has come into contact during its long history, but it also maintains its own character. Gastronomy of Romania has been greatly influenced by the Ottoman cuisine, but also includes influences from the cuisines of other neighbors, such as the Germans, Hungarians, Serbians and Hungarians. There are also traces of French, Viennese, and other Western European cuisines in Romanian cuisine. ‘Branza’ is the generic word for cheese and comes from the ancient times of the Dacians. After Roman’s influence, the well-known delicious cheese pastry becomes Romanian traditional dessert as ‘alivenci’, ‘branzoaice’ and ‘pasca’. The uniquely tasty dish is zakusca, which is must try in Romania, but also very popular in all over the Balkans /known as ayvar/. The famous dish in Romanian gastronomy is zacusca,  vegetable spread or relish, eaten typically on bread. Word zakuska is of Slavic origin, and simply means “appetizer” or “snack”, and the root of the word indicates “tasty”, “to bite” or “to snack”. Every year while celebrating Easter, Romanians will cook traditional ‘Pasca’ along the ‘cozonac’ which can be associated with sponge cake made with Turkish delight and walnuts.
Quite different types of dishes in Romania are sometimes included under a generic term; for example, the category ciorba includes a wide range of soups with a characteristic sour taste. These may be meat and vegetable soups, tripe and calf foot soups, or fish soups, all of which are soured by lemon juice, sauerkraut juice, vinegar, or traditionally bors (fermented wheat bran). Popular Romanian main courses include mititei, meatballs (perişoare if found in a meatball soup) and the snitel. One of the most common dishes in Romania is mamaliga, a cornmeal mush served on its own or as an accompaniment or in place of bread. Along with other tasty Romanian side dishes comes ‘polenta’ which has been introduced by the Romans. It is coarsely or finely ground yellow or white cornmeal boiled with water into porridge and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled. Mămăliga is a fat-free, cholesterol-free, high-fiber food. Pork and chicken are the preferred meats in Romanian dishes, but beef, lamb and fish are also popular. Pork products such as bacon, ham, spare ribs, chops, and various cold cuts are also favorites of the Romanians. With every meat dish will come along a variety of pickled vegetables, mostly cured in brine but also in vinegar. Stews, roasts, and casseroles with vegetable, salads, sour pickles, and sauerkraut make up the usual main Romanian course.

Tuica is a strong type of plum brandy that is widely regarded as the country’s traditional alcoholic beverage, along with Romanian wine which has a tradition of nearly three millennium. Romania’s climate and soil are hospitable to the production of many different types of wines, from dry, sparkling whites to rich, aromatic, purplish reds. Popular domestic grape varieties used for wine production include Frâncuşă, Fetească Albă, Tămâioasă, Fetească Neagră, Băbească. Since the 19th century, beer has become increasingly popular, and today Romanians are amongst the heaviest beer drinkers in the world.


Historically a peasant food, mamaliga was often used as a substitute for bread or even as a staple food in the poor rural areas of Romania. However, in the last decades mamaliga has emerged as an upscale dish available in the finest Romanian restaurants. 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 (mămăliguţă cu brânză şi smântână) or crushed in a bowl of hot milk (mămăliguţă 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. Its analogue in Bulgaria is called kachamak and is served mainly with white brine cheese or bacon or fried pieces of pork fat with parts of the skin (prăzhki). Another very popular Romanian dish based on mămăligă is called bulz, and consists of balls of mămăligă filled with cheese and butter and roasted in the oven.