About the food of Romania

Retezat Mountains, Romania. Photo by AlexCiopata.

Just two weeks ago our friend Marlin went to Romania, in a little spot near Transylvania. He came back with stories of a beautiful country working on unification. His words conjured up images of wagons, cobblestones, mud, and villages lost in time. In this country, one family might eat completely differently than another (surprisingly, there was no mention of vampire eating habits). Of course, it’s not all countryside – there are also stone cities which look out sternly upon the streets. Regardless of where you are, there are cultures from different backgrounds living side by side… trying to figure it all out.

Later that night, as I lay in bed, it occurred to me that Romania is no different from the rest of us. From the smallest family, to the entire human race, this is our quest: how can we all come together peacefully?

Craiova, Romania. Photo by Mvelam.

Some days go better than others.

So let’s sit around the Romanian Global Table and see what we can learn.

For starters, I noticed an old friend from our time cooking Moldova: “malmaliga” [Recipe]. This polenta-like side is either served like porridge or made so thick it can be sliced like bread. To go with malmaliga, you’ll find any number of hearty meat dishes, like sarmale – a.k.a. stuffed cabbage leaves [Recipe]. Other favorites include meatloaf stuffed with peppers and hard-boiled eggs, roast pork, duck, and even goose.

Piaţa Unirii in Bucharest. Photo by Simo Räsänen.

If you’re in the mood for vegetables you’ll still find meat in the mix more often than not. Things like sour cream baked cauliflower is served with a heavy sprinkling of bacon, while salads often includes cold ham and eggs [Recipe]. You’d also find dishes like meat-stuffed peppers, which we made a variation of for part of Kosovo’s Global Table [recipe].

Cetatea Enisala. Photo by Stefanmolnus.

To end on a sweet note, there’s everything from strudels to cake to walnut bread, and from rose petal preserves to pies to Pasca (or Easter Bread  [Recipe]). With a list like that, I’ll be smiling all week.

So let’s toast Romania with their national drink – Țuica, a.k.a. Plum liqueur.

Sighişoara, Romania. Photo by Radu Ana Maria.

And, just for fun, here’s a Romanian Proverb (although I’m not exactly sure what it means). Should I be blushing?

Nu-ti bãga nasul unde nu-ti fierbe oala.
Don’t scald your lips in another man’s porridge.


Update: Laura mentioned on our Facebook page that this translates better to “Don’t stick your nose in somebody else’s business” (translated word for word it would be something like “don’t stick your nose in someone else’s pot of boiling water”)

Maps and flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook. Photo of Beiuş, Romania by Vertigoro.


    • Sasha Martin says

      The castle has a lovely windswept feel to it… would love to see in person.

  1. Brian S. says

    About the closest I’ve been to Romania is a tiny charming restaurant I found on Skillman Avenue, a winding street in a remote neighborhood in New York City. Here are my accounts of my visits in late 2006 and late 2007.

    There is a sign outside that says, in Romanian, eat like at your mom’s house. But that’s not true unless your mom’s a great cook! I had pork stew. Pork tenderloin by some magic made succulent and tender… usually it’s as appealing as chicken breast or tofu…simmered with tomatoes, mushrooms, bay leaf, sausage. Alongside, two perfectly shaped mounds of polenta, one topped with melted cheese, the other with a perfectly poached egg. All prepared gracefully and well, as if a talented graduate of a top cooking school were given a Romanian recipe. But the cooks could have passed for grandparents in a Romanian (or any other) village. The decor is modern, like a Greenwich Village bistro, but cleaner. And I discovered Skillman, which is a lovely street. I even saw toilet paper on sale for half Manhattan prices, so I lugged 20 rolls back to Manhattan. All in all a lovely afternoon.

    I’ve been meaning to go back and yesterday, a sunny day a bit warmer than those we’ve been having, I made the lovely walk from the 7 train. It was as good as last year. I ordered the Ciolan cu fasole because the menu said it is a SPECIALITATEA CASEI What I got was worthy of being a house speciality: a pork chop that had been smoked, and tasted like lovely ham, with white beans stewed with a bit of tomato. So it was basically ham and beans, but a really good homemade version. It would have been at home on a farmer’s table in Oklahoma. I walked along Skillman to 61 St. The same store still had the toilet paper on saie, but they’d run out.
    48-06 Skillman Ave, Queens, NY 11104

    The weird thing is that I could understand some of the menu. Romanian sounds like Italian. Thanks to the Romans, who occupied the land till 275 AD, Romanian is a Romance language and it’s named after those Romans.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Sounds delicious. I particularly like the sound of a poached egg on top of polenta. yum.

  2. I went on a business trip to Romania many years ago, and had a taste of many of the dishes you list. I haven’t made stuffed vegetables in a very long time, I should get to it again. So bring on the recipes!

  3. MiuEnia says

    Hy there
    I love your site ..I have discovered it in a very strange way…..I whanted to do somthing similar and I was tring to inform about this ideea…so there you are CONGRATULATION and I respect you even more becouse you have even children and can do bought., if you will tell me that you are a business woman too I will realy envy you .)))
    The ideea comed becouse we travel a lot, we take the bagage and for two months we travel around we started 4 years ago with Asia and sow a lot of it .
    All the best with your ideea ,I have to search another one .)
    If you whant to ask me somthing about Romania , I will happy ask you
    -I have more photo about Romania on my facebook -Enia Miu

  4. Dana J says

    This is so lovely! Your writing has a beauty and calm to it that I can’t recall experiencing recently. Thank you for that.
    The Romanian recipes are pretty spot on too.
    I should know because I was born there and lived there for 24 years. Also, I really love to cook. ❤️ My first time making sarmale was just shy of my 11th birthday as my mom slipped and fell on the icy sidewalk and broke her wrist. So for Christmas and New Year I was the chef.

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