Transylvanian Stories

Romania: Dracula, virgin forests, and millenary traditions. Is this all? Enter to find more about many other hidden treasures, many of them very tasty.

Romania:
Home of the most unique melange of cuisines in Europe

Romanian cuisine is a diverse blend of different dishes from several traditions with which it has come into contact. It also maintains its own character. The Romanians share many foods with Balkan countries and the cuisines of Slavic-speaking countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Some others are original or can be traced to the Romans, as well as other ancient civilizations. It is natural to find one next to other Turkish-inspired meatballs, Greek moussaka and Austrian schnitzel.

Such a mix is hard to find anywhere else in the world. It feels like an attempt to combine the living in a mountain cave with the dwelling in a palace, to blend a sun-scorched field and the Alain Ducasse Salon in Monte Carlo. For example, Turks, Greeks or Polish also make cabbage rolls. But only the Romanians add smoked pork in the dish. They roll the meat in cabbage leaves with dill and smetana, leaving them on slow fire for days. Smelling those cabbage rolls, one can say that despite troubled past, there is a single general true fact that applies in all circumstances to Romanians’ history – that Romanians have always enjoyed excellent meals.

Romanian contributions to the world cuisine

Beef, ordinary chicken, a good lamb, or a fish dish are never to be refused in Romania. But pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine. If you ask a Romanian what canned food gets you through the winter, a simple answer would be to point towards the piglet, eating from the swill pail. It grows like inflation – a hundred kilos in five months. And preserving it is done with the help of winter’s cold weather and the amazing savoury flavour it gets from a traditional smokehouse. Among the cured meats you can find in almost any pantry of a Romanian country household, Pastrami has possibly the most interesting story.

Pastrami is one of Romanian’s contributions to world cuisine. The very term ‘pastrami’ comes from the Romanian word ‘pastramă’ (to keep, to conserve). It was introduced into the English language by Jewish immigration from Romania in the second half of the XIX century. The pastrami can be made from beef, lamb, or turkey. In Romania, you will always find pastrami in the autumn, and de rigueur on the same table with must (vinum mustum / young wine) and polenta (mămăligă). This one is another traditional Romanian dish, historically a peasant food, and recently emerging as an upscale serving available in fine dining restaurants.

Transylvania
What can you eat and drink only there

Transylvania is a charming and scenic model of prosperity and stability, inhabited by Romanians together with Hungarians, Saxons, Swabians, and Szecklers. If your epicurean searches will ever take you there, it would be a pity not to try some of the less-known local delights. Ask for “hot vișli” at Hațeg; “pork alms” with “pogăci” and “vărzări” in Aiud; polenta with milk and curd cheese in Sighet; piglet stew in Zalău; or simple lard with red onion and fresh potato bred in Făgăraș.

Together with the food, you should also discover some local wines that you can’t find anywhere else. Ask for Iordană (de Târnave), Mustoasă (de Măderat), Cădarcă (de Miniș), Seină, Corb, or the very rare Fetească Albă de Steiniger.

Transylvania is known for its white, dry, expressive wines. Nevertheless, Transylvania is par excellence, the homeland of strong drinks made from fruits, the native soil of double-distilled plum spirit mixed. It is no accident that Romania is the second-biggest producer in the world and the second-biggest consumer of plums.

With a continental climate, Romania can be quite cold in the winter. Therefore, the locals were quick to invent “interior warmers”. Țuică is de rigueur made from plums. It starts at 30% alc. south of the Carpathian Mountains to grow in strength over 50% alc. in Transylvania, even 80% alc.! It bears different names (palincă, horincă, vinars, ginars), has different alcohol concentrations, and is amazingly good in all its avatars.

Testimonies

Your architecture, your beautiful farms, your biodiversity, your native heterogeneity, the diversity of communities and traditions in Transylvania and Romania, all these together are a treasure, your treasure to the world. Your brand as a country is linked to authentic values and traditions, the taste of food, unique biodiversity and landscapes, and also the ability to innovate.
HRH Charles, Prince of Wales
When I think about your extraordinary variety of ‘Tchorba’ and after that dreamy ‘Tourta’, what comes to my mind is not only that the world, in fact, doesn't have a clue about Romania yet, but also that you, Romanians, are far from knowing your national wonders. In gastronomy, you are very, very wealthy, in spite of your so-called poverty.
Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau
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