Traditionally begin with a sour soup, called ciorba. The sourness derives from vinegar, lemon or fermented bran, extract added during preparation. You might want to try ciorba de burta, tripe soup made from cow’s innards and flavoured with garlic. Other popular varieties include vegetable soup, beef soup, smoked pork sour soup, meet ball(perisoare) soup, chicken soup,, a la greek’’.
There are a couple of salads served either as appetizers or mains. The most common are:
• Zacusca, a very popular vegetable spread made of roasted eggplant and red peppers, sautéed onions, mushrooms, tomato paste. Bay leaves are added as spice. Traditionally, a family will cook a large quantity of it after the fall harvest and preserve it through canning and store for winter. Zacusca can be eaten as a relish or spread, typically on bread. It is said to improve in taste after some months of maturing.
• Salata de vinete is a mashed eggplant salad made of grilled, peeled and finely chopped eggplants, sunflower oil and chopped onions. The eggplants are grilled until they are covered with black ash crust. The crust is cleaned off and the remaining cooked eggplant is mashed with a blunt, thick wooden cleaver (knife) on a wooden platter (popular belief has it that using a metal knife will turn the eggplant flesh black).
• Salată de boeuf is a traditional Romanian dish, generally served during all festive and special occasions. It is a combination of finely chopped beef or chicken and root vegetables, folded in mayonnaise and finished with pickled vegetable garnishes. It can be made vegetarian, too.
For mains, you can expect big portions of delicious food:
• Sarmalute Sarmale are Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls traditionally served on Christmas and New Year’s Eve but also served throughout the year at weddings, baptism parties, and other large celebrations. Ground pork is mixed with sauteed caramelized onions and rice stuffed in a cabbage leaf, pickled sauerkraut leaf or grape leaf. For flavour, they usually consist of layers with smoked pork fat, smoked ribs, or smoked sausage.
The Romanian sarmale is a versatile dish, and the best way of consuming is reheated the next day. The flavour is different with an enhanced flavour. It can be prepared with a tomato base, dill base or combination. Sweet shredded cabbage layers in between the rolls of pickled cabbage leaves or sauerkraut layers in between of sweet cabbage leaves. The taste is significant different but still a great dish.
• Mamaliga traditionally, is cooked by boiling water, salt and cornmeal in a special-shaped cast iron pot called ceaun or tuci. When cooked peasant-style and used as a bread substitute, mamaliga is supposed to be much thicker than the regular Italian polenta to the point that it can be cut in slices, like bread. When cooked for other purposes, mamaliga can be much softer, sometimes almost to the consistency of porridge. Because mamaliga sticks to metal surfaces, a piece of sewing thread can be used to cut it into slices instead of a knife; it can then be eaten by holding it with the hand, just like bread.
Mamaliga is often served with sour cream and cheese on the side (mamaliga cu brânză şi smântână) or crushed in a bowl of hot milk (mamaliga cu lapte). Sometimes slices of mamaliga are pan-fried in oil or in lard, the result being a sort of corn pone.
Since mamaliga can be used as an alternate for bread in many Romanian, there are quite a few which either based on mamaliga are, or include it as an ingredient or side dish. Arguably, the most popular of them is sarmale (a type of cabbage roll) with mamaliga.
Another very popular Romanian dish based on mamaliga is called bulz, and consists of mamaliga with cheese and butter and roasted in the oven.
• Mititei or mici (Romanian pronunciation: [mititej]) or mici (pronounced [mici], both Romanian words meaning “small ones”) is a traditional Romanian dish of grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices, such as garlic, black pepper, thyme, coriander, anise, savory, and sometimes a touch of paprika. Sodium bicarbonate and broth or water are also added to the mixture.
It is best served accompanied by french fries, mustard and muraturi(Romanian pickles). A cold beer is a must for this very popular dish in Romania.
• Fasole cu carnati is a very popular Romanian dish, consisting of baked beans and sausages. A variation replaces the sausages with smoked meat.
• Pârjoale, plural form of pârjoala, are Romanian dry meatballs, usually minced pork (sometimes with lamb, beef or chicken) mixed with eggs, garlic, herbs (parsley, dill, thyme), spices and salt, homogenized to form balls which are rolled in bread crumbs or flour and fried in hot oil.
• Cașcaval pane is a Romanian dish made with Romanian cheese named Cașcaval coated in bread crumbs and fried. Cașcaval pane is traditionally garnished with fried potatoes or mash potatoes or mamaliga with mujdei.
• Tochitura is a traditional Romanian pork stew that contains not only raw meat, but parts of internal organs of the animal, like liver, kidneys, heart, bacon and smoked sausages fried together. It is served with mamaliga and salty sheep cheese called telemea or sheep cheese kept in bellows, called branza de burduf.
• Ostropel is a typical Romanian stew that is primarily made from chicken mixed with a thick tomato sauce. Additionally, garlic or spring onions can be added to the dish. Rabbit, lamb or other types of meat are also sometimes used and, alternatively, vegetarian versions can be made during fasting periods.
• Ciulama is a dish that can be mainly found in Romanian and Moldovan cuisine but its origins are found in Turkish cuisine. It is prepared from meat (especially poultry) or mushrooms in white sauce. The sauce is made from flour with fried onions. Often it is served with mamaliga.
When it comes to desserts, there is a wide range of crepes with various fillings and toppings. One national treasure is papanasi, fried dough, sweetened curd cheese, jam and sour cream on top.