If you are a foodie like me, then you probably enjoy immersing yourself in trying as many foreign cuisines as you can. Even though many countries have European food options in their menus, it is always more interesting to discover new flavors. The perk in trying meals for the first time is the fact that one can continuously fall in love with before-unknown yet mouth-watering dishes. Whenever I travel, I try to find a local who would share with me the best places to eat, and the classic meals in the area. Let me be that local for you now. What I have prepared in this story, is a presentation of a three-course traditional Romanian lunch in Bucharest, which will have your taste buds coming to life. After you indulge in this feast, this experience will set Romania in your top-five list of countries with the best food. Let your love for the Romanian cuisine start.
The perfect three-course Romanian meal should start with three appetizers. All of these appetizers are vegetable spreads. The eggplant salad (salata de vinete) is a Romanian favorite. Baked eggplants are chopped until they have the consistency of a paste. They are mixed with chopped onions and homemade mayo. After adding salt and pepper, this simple dish becomes very flavorful.
The second appetizer is called “zacuscă.” Eggplants and bell peppers are baked and chopped. They are added over some cooked onions with pureed tomatoes and left to cook until they turn into a yummy thick paste. Zacuscă is served cold and is a veggie delight. Lastly, the third appetizer is a white bean spread with caramelized onions on top (fasole frecata cu ceapa caramelizată). The beans are boiled and then mashed into a paste and seasoned. The caramelized onions complement the beans very well, adding sweetness to them.
When it comes to Romanian soups, one should know that most of them aren’t vegetarian. The tripe soup (ciorbă de burtă) is made out of the edible lining of a cow’s stomach. It is pure white and once boiled has the consistency of a mushroom. The soup is served with cream, garlic, and vinegar. As a child, the tripe soup didn’t sound too appealing. Only now that I’m an adult, I can appreciate it the right way. This being said, if you are traveling with children, maybe try ordering for them the chicken soup or the “perişoare soup" (made out of round-shaped minced pork meat) instead.
By now, the appetizers and the soup have opened up your appetite. Make room for more, since the last course of this meal is a delicious portion of stuffed cabbage rolls by the name of “sarmale.” Romanians stuff sour cabbage leaves or grape leaves with minced meat (mostly pork or cow), rice, tomato paste, and an assortment of herbs. After boiling them, they are served with sour creme and hot peppers. All of these courses will leave you not only fully satiated but also with a new appreciation for Romanian cuisine.
I've discovered a restaurant in Bucharest which not only excels in giving tourists tasty traditional meals but also offers an authentic ethnic ambiance. Lacrimi şi Sfinţi Restaurant (Tears and Saints) is located in the capital’s center, where one can also visit the Romanian Kitsch Museum and Manuc's Inn. This two-story restaurant has many seating areas, including some in the building’s basement. Customers are separated from the kitchen only through a glass wall and can see all of the excitement inside of it. Amazing smells swirl in the air and make the waiting for the food to appear longer than it actually is. The ambiance and music give visitors a taste of Romanian traditions.
Now, when you arrive in Romania, you won’t have to ask locals about the best Romanian food. This information is at your fingertips. Enjoy a three-course traditional Romanian lunch in Bucharest and don’t be afraid to try many other dishes. Those who venture out of their comfort zone can find tasty experiences waiting for them ahead.
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