Dinner in Romania

So tonight I went to dinner with various bigwigs of the IHEU at a place that I think was called “La Mama”, and tried some of that authentic Romanian food. I had something called a Transylvanian bulz, which I chose just because I liked the name, and something that in the English version of the menu was called “mindblowing spicy pan as at mom’s house”. They were both very good. I have discovered that at least these Romanian dishes expressed a distinct fondness for paprika — I think I’ve sweated most of it out now.

I’ve only got a few days here. Somebody make recommendations for must-have true Romanian food before I leave.

(Also, it’s quite late here and my brain is beginning to drip out my ears. I might just pass out for a few hours and with any luck, wake up with my circadian rhythms reset to Eastern European time.)


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Nitpicking: Former East Bloc countries -which we used to call Easten Europe, bundling them together with their Russian overlords- often prefer to be called “Central European” now that they are free to choose their allegiances.
    I am in favor of anything named after Transylvania, but culturally it might be closer to the Hungarian cuisine than the Romanian.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Tpyo: easten should be eastern.
    I slipped in the shower today, and had to get stitches in the scalp so I am probably less observant than usual.

  3. katiemarshall says

    Yeah…keep in mind if you’re in Transylvania, you’re likely interacting with the Hungarian ethnic minority. They have great food tho–highly recommend eggplant dishes, schnitzels (from the German influence), and anything involving pastry. I only know the Hungarian pronunciation, not the spelling (which is very very different!), and that probably won’t get you far in Bucharest.

  4. vaiyt says

    Schnitzel, eggplant and Romanian pastries. Hmm. Damn you, katiemarshall, now I’m hungry.

  5. dongiovanni says

    A kind of yeast cake with poppyseed filling. Hungarian. I’m Polish, so can’t help with the names, but I do know that it exists in Hungary, so you might be in luck.

  6. Ulysses says

    Sour soup. Romanians like to flavor soup with souring tastes like vinegar, sauerkraut juice, lemon juice and fermented wheat bran (called bors).

  7. says

    One of my co-workers recommends (she provided the spellings):

    cozonac – Romanian version of panettone; may be holidays only.
    halva – a sweet nut paste
    gogoşi – fried pastry similar to an elephant ear
    afinată – a blueberry liqueur
    rachiu – Romanian brandy
    chiftele – pork meatballs
    frigărui – kebab
    şniţel – schnitzel
    sarmale – stuffed grape leaves

    Yes, there is a reason why she gave me the desserts first, followed by spirits.

  8. DrewN says

    Kürtőskalács: It’s a sweet dough, cooked by being roasted on a spit over an open fire.

  9. ildi says

    puliszka (Transilvanian version of polenta) recipes; my mother made a version involving layers of sheep cheese and bacon.

  10. RFW says

    Don’t forget that Bucharest was once known as “the Paris of eastern Europe.”

  11. kagy says

    Too late now, but as a former Romanian citizen via Peace Corps, anything with polenta/mamaliga is the closest to traditional you’ll get. Paprika/spice is a Hungarian staple: we joke in the South, “Romanian’s have two seasonings…. salt and pepper!”

  12. kagy says

    Kurtoskalacs (mentioned above) is also amazing, it’s like fried cinnamon sugar butter bread… The coals do it incredible justice. I’ve been working on a Stateside version.

  13. salahhesali says

    I agree with kagy. Also the best thing I have ever eaten that is 100% roamanian is sarmale – but not in grape leaves, those suck ass – in cabbage leaves with sour cream and mamaligutza (polenta, it.). You just have to try beans with pork (fasole cu ciolan) and tripe soup (ciorba de burta) with sour cream. Also we have a lot of very good native sausages. Grilled “mici/mititei” with mustard and beer for the outside escapades, and mamaligutza with cheese and sour cream for a light snack. That sould do it. Almost none of these should be spicy (some sausages are).

  14. salahhesali says

    Btw, if you happen to be in Bucharest on Saturday, you can join some real nice atheist guys in the “Blasphemous beer” gathering they have every week. They would love to have you there, I am sure. I can provide you with contact if you want.

  15. brossa says

    I will second the recommendations of others for tripe soup, mamaliga, and cabbage sarmale. The tuica I had there was plum brandy (I think that makes it ‘palinca’ officially) – you can buy a highfalutin form in shops but it seems most people have access to a relative or friend that makes it themselves. There are a LOT of plum trees growing out in all those little country villages. Our hosts sent us home with several ‘water’ bottles full as a parting gift, just like moonshine in a Mason jar. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C8%9Auic%C4%83 for further description.

    Things I haven’t seen mentioned yet:
    papanasi – a fried sort-of cottage-cheese doughnut eaten with cream and jam
    salty, slightly crumbly telemea cheese
    Probably the best single dish I had there was pork belly, cured but uncooked, spread on dark bread with chopped red onion. The skin part of the pork belly was too chewy and had a 5 o’clock shadow of bristles, so I cut that bit off, but still. Fantastic.

  16. labyrinthos says

    Some good ideas so far, but you cannot visit Bucharest without trying the most popular food around: shaorma! It’s an adopted recipe, but by now it’s as Bucharestian as tea is British. Some think it’s low class or only something you eat in a hurry, but that’s a gross misconception! A richly flavored, balanced, lovingly wrapped shaorma will always hold a special place in my heart.

    But don’t just get one randomly from the first shaormerie you bump into. There is great variability between different shaormas. My personal recommendation as the best saorma in town is:

    “La Haleala” – there is one at B-dul Inginer Gheorghe Duca, Nr. 8, very close to the main train station and another in the Old City Center. They usually take the time to give recommendations on how best to customize your shaorma depending on your general personal tastes (how salty, hot, juicy, etc) and their sauces are unparralelled.

    The most successful shaorma brand in Bucharest is “Dristor”. They are probably the most professional and they are the first true shaorma brand in town. Although considered by many to be the best, they are second in my book, but not to be ignored. They are also to be found in the Old City Center, among other locations in town.

    While on the subject of Old City Center, you might want to check it out if you have the chance. It’s where most young people hang out, since it’s almost exclusively outdoor cafes, bars and clubs. It’s friendly and pleasant this time of year. You will also find the two shaormeries I recommended there, so what more could you ask for? Judging by the picture you posted earlier, you are in Romana square, so you are about a 10-minute walk away from the Old Center, towards Universitate.

    salahhesali, how come I wasn’t aware of this weekly “blasphemous beer” you speak of? If it’s a public thing, it’d be interested to learn more!

  17. nich says

    You’re an atheist…in Transylvania…craving an authentic dish…

    Get off this feminist, Atheist+ schtick and get back to what atheism is really all about: sucking the sweet, sweet blood of Christian children! Duh!

  18. David Marjanović says

    A kind of yeast cake with poppyseed filling. Hungarian.


    rachiu – Romanian brandy

    From rakı, Turkish anise brandy.

    chiftele – pork meatballs

    From Turkish köfte (decidedly not made with pork in the original) + the Romanian plural definite article at the end. And as the f shows, the Turks didn’t come up with it.