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Monday, 31 March 2014

What You Should Eat While In Romania

Dear friends,

In order to distract you from the fact that today is Monday, I thought I may share with you a bit more about my country :) That's right! Today I shall tell you what you should eat while in Romania. What to eat, what to drink and what goodies you could buy to bring home with you. As an expat one of the things I miss the most here in Poland is the food - to be more precise the awesome dishes that my Granny prepares! I bet she could kick Jamie Olivers arse ;) So here I am, attempting to take you on a journey through Romania :)
Romanian cuisine is diverse and you have different dishes from which you could choose. We have been influenced by the Ottoman cuisine but also by German, Serbs, Bulgarians and Hungarians. Let us face it! Every country has its own influences from its neighbours - so do we! There are generic terms like ciorbă, which includes different types of soups with sour taste. The soups can be made out of meat and vegetables, tripe (ciorbă de burtă) and calf foot soups, or fish soups, all of which are soured by lemon juice, sauerkraut juice, vinegar, or traditionally borş. The category ţuică (plum brandy) is a generic name for a strong alcoholic spirit in Romania, while in other countries, every flavour has a different name.
The most known traditional dish is the sărmăluţe cu mămăligă, a popular Romanian dish of stuffed cabbage rolls (sarmale), accompanied by sauerkraut and mămăligă. The cabbage rolls are usually garnished with sour cream, not lemon and olive. The sărmăluţe are made with rice and meat and vegetables and after the ingredients get mixed up it gets rolled with sauerkraut - the full leaf - or with vine tree leaf that went through the same process as the cabbage (water and salt so it would soften) they are set to boil.
Another dish I am madly in love with and thankfully enough I am able to reproduce the reciepequite easily is the liver with onion and mămăligă. It is done with a lot of onion and garlic and condiments and I have a special ingredient for the mămăligă ;) I managed to screw it up just once - the mămăligă - but that is because I was not paying enough attention to how much cornflower I was putting in... Silly me!
Mititei or mici (Romanian words meaning "small things") is a traditional Romanian dish of grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork and spices such as garlic, black pepper, thyme, coriander, anise, savory and sometimes a touch of paprika. Sodium bicarbonate and broth or water are also added to the mixture. It is best served accompanied by mustard and beer. Ideally the mustard should not be overly tart, lest it interferes with the taste of the mititei.We usually eat that when we have festivals or picnics and they are always extremely tasty!
Another dish I love is the salată de vinete (Eggplant salad) or vinetta is both a Romanian and Hungarian mashed eggplant salad made of grilled, peeled and finely chopped eggplants, sunflower oil and chopped onions. The eggplants are grilled until they are covered with black ash crust. The crust is cleaned off and the remaining cooked eggplant is mashed with a blunt, thick wooden knife on a wooden platter (popular belief has it that using a metal knife will turn the eggplant flesh black). The eggplant mash is mixed in a bowl, stirring continuously, with sunflower oil, chopped onions and salt. The mix is beaten vigorously. Crushed garlic and ground pepper may be added too. Instead of oil, mayonnaise can be used. You can eat it spread on slices of bread it is perfect to be eaten while being fresh ;)
Oh! But let me tell you about the cheese! This is what I miss the most in Poland and even my husband admited that we have more types than here and that each time when we go there we need to bring some ;) The generic name for cheese in Romania is brânză, and it is considered to be of Dacian origin. Most of the cheeses are made of 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. Nevertheless I love it! The best is the brânză de burduf - a salty type of cheese, with sheep's-milk cheese, has a strong flavour and slightly soft in texture. To obtain it, sweet caş is cut into small pieces, salted and then hand-mixed in a large wooden bowl. The mixture is then placed in a sheep’s stomach, or into a sheep’s skin that has been carefully cleaned and sawed on the edges, or in a tube made of pine bark. The cheese can be consumed even if kept for a long time in a sheep’s stomach or in a sheep’s skin. If kept in pine bark, the cheese gets a specific pine resin flavour. The cheese is specific to southeastern Transylvania, Romania.
And of course I am saving the best for the last ;) Tochitură is a traditional Romanian dish like a stew made from beef and pork in tomato sauce, traditionally served with over-easy eggs and mămăligă. The tochitură moldovenească is is the Moldavian stew and the tochitură ardelenească is the Transylvanian stew. I - of course - prefer the Moldavian one ;) Tochitura is made in 2 main different ways: with or without tomatoes sauce. The stew with the tomatoes sauce is the most common and it is prepared in most restaurants, but is less 'traditional'. The one without is has a sauce of pork fat and juices from the parts of the meat. The traditional Romanian stew (tochitura)contains not only raw meat,but parts of internal organs of the animal (like liver, kidneys, heart, pork fat (slanina) or bacon and smoked sausages fried together. It is served with mamaligă (polenta)and salty sheep cheese called 'telemea' or sheep cheese kept in bellows, called 'brânză de burduf'.
Dear me! I already have my mouth watering! So I shall refrain myself from telling you about the sweets - maybe next time ;)  But I promised you I would tell you what you shoould buy in order to take with yourself home. I usually go with 2 things: wine VS. sweets. Romania is one of the world's largest wine producers, producing (as of 2009) around 610,000 tons of wine. In recent years, Romania has attracted many European business people and wine buyers, due to the affordable prices of both vineyards and wines compared to other wine producing nations such as France, Germany, and Italy. And tell you the truth I rather love the wines from my region ;)  Cotnari  is a village and the center of the eponymous commune in Iaşi County, Romania, in the historical region of Moldavia (that is from where I am from). It is located north-west of Iaşi and south of Hârlău (that is where I grew up), in a major wine-producing region of Romania, and is famous for the wine variety known as Grasă de Cotnari. It is a semi-sweet white wine that should have a distinct bouquet of apricot, walnut and almond and should be drunk chilled at about 10-12 degrees Celsius. Now that is a perfect gift! ;) and even wine lovers will immediately fall for it!
When it comes to sweets I have 3 items in my mind: ROM Chocolate & Făgăraş & Eugenia. For me they have the taste of childhood and my husband is madly in love with them :) He would eat the whole box in one day! ROM Chocolate & Făgăraş are both rum based choco bars that simply melt in your mouth... Eugenia is a combination of 2 biscuits with cream between them - it could be choco, it could be lemon :) Either way, try them both and let me know in time which you love most :)
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Hope you liked todays post and I would love to hear from my fellow expats what they miss most :) What kind of food can you not find where you live and what do you always bring from home?

Yours truly,
A LadyBug Who Loves Both Romanian & Polish Food ;)