Bucharest city tales: Enjoy the Romanian street cuisine
Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania. This week she looks at the food you can buy in the small street cantinas in Bucharest.
Romanian food: I am a fan, I must admit, and maybe too much of a fan, because Romanian cuisine is really tasty. Try and give your taste buds a present by finding some local places, where you can taste real traditional Romanian food.
There are a lot of options. First of course are the restaurants, but then if you want to grab a quick bite, you should try one of the small cantinas, they offer a whole range of Romanian dishes for a relatively cheap price.
The cantinas are not fancy restaurants, but instead places where you can meet the local Romanians and try some traditional food. Some of the places also offer seating, so you can sit and enjoy a Ciorba de Burta (tripe soup), which is a soup made from cows' stomachs. No, it's not pasta in the soup, which I thought when I first tasted it.
Or you can choose a Ciorba de Loboda (mountain spinach soup) or Ciorba de Stevie (sorrel soup), both are vegetables soups, and they are really delicious if you don’t want to try the cow stomach, or you can taste the soup made of urzici - which are nettles- it is an energy booster and a very healthy soup. Actually in Romania I have tasted some of the best soups or ciorbas in my life – ciorba is a heavier soup. Romanians for sure know how to make a great soup.
Then for your main dish you have to taste sarmale - cabbage leaves stuffed with meat or rice, otherwise you can choose a grilled piece of chicken, pork or fish and then as a side dish, or even as a main, there is mamaliga (polenta), which is a traditional dish in Romania, it is like the Italian polenta. Or you should try and order mititei or mici, sausage-like and served with mustard, not everybody’s favorite, but those who like mititei seem to be able to eat dozens of them.
Some of my favorites main or side dishes are the bean dishes called fasole, I have never been much of a bean fan, but in Romania they make it really delicious with different ingredients, that will make your taste buds spin. And you have to try costita afumata cu fasole, this is a piece of pork which looks quite similar to the Danish bacon, and together with fasole, yummy, just taste it, and you will know what I mean.
Another dish that has become a favorite is Mazare - I just love this green pea dish, or try spinach, spanac in Romanian, as a side. In Romania they will turn beans or spinach into delicate meals, that will make you crave for more.
It is simple food but is usually made from healthy produce, so it is more tasty than what you can find in the stores, where the E numbers are popping-up.
Not to forget, if you haven’t found a favorite covrigi shop, you haven’t really integrated. Covrig is a little bread thing, looks like a German pretzel, but the covrig in Romania has a sweeter taste. Choose between different types, there is 'cu mac', which is with poppy seeds (they do have a tendency to stick in between teeth, so don’t take that one before a meeting), then there is my favorite 'cu stafide', which is raisins, it is a really good, but be careful! It's easy to get a habit and find yourself needing your daily Covrigi (in picture).
Besides Covrigi, you can find a lot of breads and cakes in mini bakeries. If I had to recommend one thing, it would be 'rulou cu cremwurst.' This is a sausage covered in bread, and even if there are differences in how they are made and the ingredients used, if you find the right place, you'll get a winner meal.
By Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe, columnist
Eleonore is Danish, she holds a BA in Organization and Management and specializes in Corporate Communication & Strategic Development. She is also a Market Economist and a Multimedia Designer. She is currently working in Bucharest as the Executive Director of UAPR the Romanian Advertising Association. As a Danish Viking in Romania, with a great passion for ’covrigi’, she has a burning desire to find out more about Romania especially Bucharest, and enlighten the small differences in the culture between Denmark and Romania.. Her weekly columns will give you insights into an expats life in Bucharest written with humor and a big Danish smile.
(photo source: Arhivafoto.ro)