Below are my recommended top 10 list of foods to try this holiday season. Traditional Romanian dishes bring together a mix of ingredients and are influenced by Hungarian, Balkan, Turkish, Serbian and Austrian/ German cuisines, leading to a varied and savoury menu of Romanian food.
Sarmale (English: Cabbage Rolls) – This is real comfort food that you can smell on the street during Christmas and New Year holidays. It is made of minced meat (usually pork or in combination with poultry) mixed with spices, rice, and onions, rolled up in sour cabbage leaves, and boiled in a sauerkraut sauce. In some Romanian regions, they use vine leaves in place of cabbage. For fasting or for a vegan choice, the minced meat is replaced with a mixture of ground nuts, carrots, and mushrooms.
Mici (Grilled Minced Meat Rolls) – is very tasty and very popular at barbeques, street food stalls, and family celebrations. Made from minced pork and beef mixed with garlic, spices, and sodium bicarbonate, best eaten with mustard and bread.
Mămăligă (English: Polenta) – Usually, a healthy side dish for sarmale or served plain with sour cream and Romanian cheese, mămăligă is made from boiled cornflour and also sits well with stews. Shepherds/ farmers mix it with sheep cheese to make a speciality called “bulz”.
Ciorbă de burtă (English: Beef Tripe Soup) – Only for the brave diner when travelling abroad, the most popular soups in Romania – Beef Tripe Soup, made from cow stomach, vegetables, and bones, flavoured with garlic, vinegar, and hot chilli peppers.
Pomana Porcului (English: Honoring The Pig) – a rural Christmas tradition. Fresh meat is cut and fried from a slaughtered pig in its own fat, served with authentic pickles and eaten around the fireplace while socialising with the neighbours.
Jumări (English: Pork Scratchings) – From the same sacrificed pig, Romanians make a very tasty but fattening salty starter called jumări by frying bits of bacon in pig fat. This is best served warm and always accompanied with raw onions and a shot of plum brandy, or țuică.
Salata De Boeuf/Pui (English: Beef/ Chicken Salad) – This festive dish is really easy to make from ingredients leftover from making soup. Mixed with cubed vegetables and meat or chicken, pickles and mayonnaise. The original recipe is made with beef, but nowadays many Romanians replace the beef with chicken.
Cozonac (English: Sweet Bread) – Without this, there is no Christmas or Easter traditional feast. This Romanian dessert is a type of sweet bread with sweet walnut paste, poppy seed paste, or Turkish delight and raisins. It can also be found all year round in stores or fairs, but nothing compares with the taste of homemade examples.
Papanași (English: doughnut and cream) – Papanași is always very popular, regardless of how full you are. Originating from northern Romania, this is very popular among all sweet-toothed folks. It’s a fried doughnut-shaped cottage cheese and semolina mixture with cream and jam, typically blueberry. This sour /sweet taste is a delight for the senses and feast for the eyes.