Traditional Foods of Romanian Culture

Papanași
••• Papanași with sour cherries and sugar powder. Nicubunu / Getty Images

Romania has had influence from both invaders and neighbors where its traditional cuisine is concerned. Romania's traditional food sees touches of Turkish, Hungarian, Austrian, and other cuisines, but over the years, these dishes have become just as traditional as the oldest Romanian traditional foods.

Typical Dishes

Romanian traditional foods heavily feature meat. Cabbage rolls, sausages, and stews (like tocanita) are popular main dishes.

Muschi poiana consists of mushroom- and bacon-stuffed beef in a puree of vegetables and tomato sauce. You can also sample traditional Romanian fish dishes, like the salty, grilled carp called saramura.

Soups, Appetizers, Side Dishes

Soups - made with or without meat, or made with fish - are usually offered on menus at Romanian restaurants. Zama is a green bean soup with chicken, parsley, and dill. You may also encounter pilaf and moussaka, vegetables prepared in various ways (including stuffed peppers), and hearty casseroles.

Romanian Desserts

Traditional Romanian desserts may resemble baklava. Other pastries may best be described as danishes (pastries with cheese filling). Crepes with various fillings and toppings may also be on the typical Romanian dessert menu.

Holiday Dishes

As in other countries in Eastern Europe, the people of Romania celebrate holidays with special dishes. For example, during Christmas, a pig may be slaughtered and the fresh meat used to make dishes like bacon, sausage, and black pudding.

Organs from the pig are consumed as well. During Easter, a cake made of sweetened cheese is eaten.

Polenta

Polenta shows up in many Romanian recipe books as a hearty and versatile side dish or as an ingredient of more elaborate dishes. This pudding made of corn meal has been eaten in the region of Romania for centuries--it dates back to Roman times when soldiers cooked up this grain-based porridge as an easy way to sustain themselves.

Polenta can be baked, served with cream or cheese, fried, formed into balls, or made into cakes. Mamaliga, as it is known in Romania, is served in homes and restaurants.