Romanian Foods 101
The winter holidays are coming and, as we all know, they are best time to enjoy some of the best treats of the year. Romanian Christmas holidays are famous for the great variety of dishes. Here are just the basisc, to get you ready for your winter visit to Romania.
“The central characteristic of the Romanian cuisine is its
great variety. It is a cuisine influenced by repeated waves of different cultures: the ancient Greeks, with whom Romanians traded; the Romans, who gave the country its name; the Saxons, who settled in southern Transylvania; the Turks, who for centuries dominated Romania; as well as Slavic and Magyar neighbors. All of these influences gradually blended into the varied and delicious Romanian culinary tradition” (Nicolae Klepper — Taste of Romania)
The main ingredients used by Romanian chefs are meats such as pork, beef and lamb, fish, vegetables, dairy products and fruit. A traditional Romanian meal may include:
All kinds of cheeses, cold cuts and vegetable spreads.
A traditional drink enjoyed with appetizers is ” ţuică ” (a potent plum brandy) which varies in strength, dryness and bouquet according to the production area.
“Ciorbă de perişoare” (meatball soup), “ciorbă ţărănească ” (vegetable soup, with or without meat), “ciorbă de burtă ” (tripe soup).
“Saramură ” (grilled carp in brine), “nisetru la grătar ” (grilled Black Sea sturgeon) or “scrumbie la grătar ” (grilled herring).
“Tocaniţă ” or “tochitură ” (meat stew seasoned with onions and/ or spices),
“ghiveci ” (over 20 vegetables cooked in oil), “sarmale ” (pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice and spices) and “mititei ” (The “Wee Ones” – small skinless grilled sausages) are among the favorites.
“Papanaşi ” (cottage cheese donuts, topped with sour cream and fruit preserve),
“clătite cu brânză ” (crepes filled with cottage cheese, raisins and spices) and
“cozonac ” (traditional holiday sweet bread filled with walnuts, poppy seeds or cream cheese).
A Unique Romanian Cheese
Romanian Traditional CheesesCheese and tree bark don’t seem like a natural fit. But this specialty of southeast Transylvania, especially in the towns and villages that include Moeciu and Fundata, may go as far back as the 14th century. Dairy farmers needed a way to store the surplus cheese, and the local evergreen forests provided the perfect vehicle. After all, woody bark provides wonderful protection for trees. Strip the bark from a fir tree, wrap it around the cheese and presto: the dairy product remains moist and preserved from the elements.
The Origin of Pastrami
Little Romania in lower Manhattan was a neighborhood within a neighborhood, tucked into the blocks bound by East Houston Street, Allen Street, Grand Street, and the Bowery. When the Romanian-born writer Marcus Ravage arrived in New York in 1900, he found the area thriving; restaurants had opened everywhere, he recalled in a memoir, and the first Romanian delicatessens were displaying “goose-pastrama and kegs of ripe olives”.
“Goose-pastrama” was the starting point for American pastrami. The Jewish immigrants who settled in Little Romania brought with them a traditional technique for preserving goose by salting, seasoning, and smoking the meat. In America, however, beef was cheaper and more widely available than goose, so pastrama was made with beef brisket instead. Later the name became pastrami—perhaps because it rhymed with “salami” and was sold in the same delicatessens. By the time Little Romania dispersed in the 1940s, New Yorkers from every ethnic background were claiming expertly sliced pastrami as their rightful heritage.
Transylvanian Treats: One Sweet “Cylinder”
A long rope of sweet yeast dough is tightly wrapped in a spiral around a wooden form, something like a rolling pin, and dusted with sugar. It is then baked, slowly
turning, on a rotating spit above an open flame. Carefully edged off its wooden mold after baking, each chimney cake is a whimsical-looking, soft bread with an addictively crunchy caramelized sugar crust and an airy open center.
Chimney Cakes – Transylvanian TreatsAnna Kozma, who hails from Romania, said this special-occasion cake (called kurtoskalacs, or chimney cake) was just a provincial treat until after the fall of Communism, when entrepreneurs began opening city shops in Romania, Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.
They are best eaten, fresh, by breaking off pieces.