14 July 2012

Oh the food!

Before I went to Romania, my friend Ruth told me that I might have trouble eating in Romania as the Romanians love meat (and this may be an understatement).
The first couple of days were so hot, I didn't eat a proper meal or much of anything beyond a few oranges and pretzels. BUT finally I sunk my teeth into delicious Romania food.
Now Ruth was not wrong, it was a challenge at times to find vegetarian food - and more so to find traditional Romanian foods that were also vegetarian friendly.

This was probably my most favorite traditional meal in Romania. The yellow part was Polenta (it's a corn meal dish - a bit like grits). The brown was a mushroom lentil stew. It had the most amazing flavor. I would eat this again if I had the opportunity.

After the amazing meal above (which by the way I ate with my friend Anca at a lovely restaurant called La Mama), I had this traditional desert. Based on the description in the menu (pastry with berry compote, cheese and sour cream) I expected something akin to blitzes. But this was like a fried cake donut. In the middle was a quark-like cheese. It had a berry and sour cream sauce poured over it. On top was the donut hole. This was rich, tasty and extremely delicious.

You might never believe the origin of this salad. Anca, Doru (her husband) and I were driving from Bucharest to Brasov. We stopped at a gas station that had a little cafe. I ordered a "Salad Romania". This salad consisted of tomatoes, red bell peppers, cucumbers, black olives and a cheese that was very similar to (but not 100% the same as) feta. It was delicious and fresh made!

My friends from Germany (or those who have been there) will be familiar with Döner Kebap. There are also many Kebap stands in Romania as well. I went to one and tried to explain that I wanted one with no meat or french fries (yes, they we're putting fries in them there). They clearly understood my desire for no meat, but did not quite understand that I wanted it as a wrap. Instead I ended up with this huge salad. It contained cabbage, sautéed peppers, cilantro, onions, black olives, pickles and so much more. In fact, it contained beets, which normally I do not care for, which it turned out had been prepared so well that I enjoyed them. This was a delicious alternative to a greasy, meaty Kebap.

On the left hand side was a cabbage dish that I thought would taste like sauerkraut, but it was not so vinegary. It had dill and pepper seasoning, with a few pieces of tomato. The mushrooms were sautéed, most likely in olive oil. The ring above it was bread, a bit like a pretzel, but not quite as yeasty. It had sesame seeds on half of it. These bread rings could be found all over the place and were a great snack. They reminded me a bit of a similar food in Turkey, although these were softer.

Kürtös Kalác reminded me of the biscuits on a stick that we would toast over a campfire in Girl Scouts - just on a much bigger scale! These are hollow - but trust me, one is filling enough to share with several people! The dough is toasted over coals, then glazed. At that point one has a choice of topping: nuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, coconut, chocolate or no topping. I choose cinnamon. Then it is cooled (well until the bread is cooled enough to be touched - to be slid off the stick. Then it is bagged. One Kalác cost 10 RON, or about $3. I shared my Kürtös Kalác with two girls from Germany and one from France as we took shelter under the awning of the stand during a downpour.

It was very common to see older (Gypsy) women selling baskets of raspberries, or to see young kids selling nuts. It was interesting to watch them start with the green nut covering, expertly wield a knife to free the flesh from its covering.

Often I brag about how delicious the food was. This pizza was the opposite, it may well have been the worst pizza I've encountered since I last had pizza in the school cafeteria. This pizza seemed as if it was made by opening a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and putting them on the pizza along with a few black olives and a couple slices of tomato. Some of the vegetables were still cold!

Overall I enjoyed the food in Romania, had some wonderful salads and found that I could buy sweet oranges and grapefruit. I certainly didn't go hungry!

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