“The central characteristic of the Romanian cuisine is its great variety. It is a cuisine influenced by repeated waves of different cultures: the ancient Greeks, with whom Romanians traded; the Romans, who gave the country its name; the Saxons, who settled in southern Transylvania; the Turks, who for centuries dominated Romania; as well as Slavic and Magyar neighbors. All of these influences gradually blended into the varied and delicious Romanian culinary tradition”
(Nicolae Klepper — Taste of Romania)
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), 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 it impossible to determine today the punctual origin for most of them.
One of the most common meals is the mămăligă, 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.
Stews made with different chicken and pork in addition to various vegetables are very popular in restaurants. One of the favorites among Romanians is the tripe soup served with garlic or hot chili pepper and vinegar. Carnati, a dish made with pork liver and intestines is also a favorite. More meat favorites include the following: frigarui (skewered meat), mititei (grilled mince meat rolls) and snitel (a breaded pork, veal, or beef cutlet).
For vegetarians, some options include ghiveci (mixed fried vegetables), oua umplute (filled eggs) and bulz de mamaliga cu branza(polenta mixed with cheese, however you should carefully read the ingredients as there are variations which include meat). Potatoes are also served often. Breakfast contains mainly of eggs, whether fried, soft-boiled, or omellettes.
When it comes to desserts, there is a wide range of crepes with various fillings and toppings. Other favorites include baklava (an extremely sweet layered pastry), pandispan (sponge cake),turta dulce (gingerbread), papanasi (a kind of doughnut with jam and sour cream on top)and orez cu lapte ( rice pudding).
The most common Romanian herbs, spices and vegetables are allspice, basil, bay leaves, caraway seeds, celery root, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, dill, lovage, parsley, parsnip, rosemary, summer savory, tarragon, and vanilla.
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:
Cârnați – sausages which may be smoked and/or dry-cured;
Caltaboș – an emulsified sausage based on liver with consistency 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 pig’s stomach;
Tochitură – pan-fried cubed pork served with mămăligă and wine (“so that the pork can swim”);
Piftie or 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 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 of minced offal (heart, liver, lungs) with spices, wrapped in a caul and roasted. The traditional Easter cake is pască, a pie made of 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.
Wine is the preferred drink, and Romanian wine has a tradition of over three millennia. Romania is currently the world’s ninth 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.