10 Bulgarian food classics You Need On Your ‘Must Eat’ Bucket List
Bulgaria, the land where Balkan and Slavic revelry meets eastern European grit and stoicism. The country is also incidentally the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet! Bulgaria is fast gaining ground in other countries in Europe as one that is high on most backpackers’ lists of where to visit. A big part of this interest lies in the diverse geography, ecology, the history of the people and of course, the Bulgarian food.
Getting Started with Bulgarian Food
If you ever venture on a Bulgarian holiday, remember a few things: Bulgarians love to catch up with family, welcome visitors, feed them, and talk to them about their lives and culture. A big part of this bonding happens over meals. Bulgarian food, traditional drinks and Bulgarian cheese all compliment the splendid hospitality and surroundings. Here’s what you can expect from a traditional Bulgarian meal.
Bulgarian Guvech- Vegetable Casserole With Meat in a Clay Pot
It is very healthy meal, full with vitamins and protein. It is usually made with pork or beef, tomatoes,okra, mushrooms, peas, green beans, potatoes, eggplant, onions, herbs, and spices and is often served with “Balkan Mixed Salad”, a combination of roasted eggplant, sweet roasted peppers, garlic, tomatoes.
This traditional Bulgarian pastry is something you’ll find across the country at bakeries, coffee shops, canteens and bus stations. It’s buttery, cheesy, goodness is highly addictive. This snack (that goes very well with coffee) is prepared by stacking up layers of filo pastry dough – or fini kori as the Bulgarians call it, with butter and traditional Bulgarian cheese before it is baked. If you’re on a diet, you’ll definitely overshoot your calorie limit with a couple of Banitza, but trust me – it’s worth it.
If you’re looking for a quick snack or appetiser in Bulgaria, your best bet is to grab a roll or slice yourself some Lukanka. A traditional salami, Lukanka is the Bulgarian variant of the Italian soppressata.
Lukanka is great as a snack, to eat with veggies or with cheese over drinks. The salami is a mix of meat and fat, cured with spices and herbs before it is cased and dried out. Every region in Bulgaria has its own unique way of making Lukanka, and some even patent their local Lukanka at the Bulgarian patent office!
Shkembe (Tripe Soup)
Bulgarians love soup and salad. The shkembe is a traditional Bulgarian soup made from tripe. If you look at a Bulgarian cookbook, chances are ‘Shkembe’ will be one of the first recipes you come across. So “What is tripe?” you may be thinking. If you remember what it is, chances are you’re wondering what it may be like in a soup.
For the uninitiated, tripe is, of course, the thick stomach lining found in the bellies of cattle. But wait. Before you get grossed out, learn more about it! This traditional recipe is made by boiling cut or minced tripe for several hours with paprika, milk, and oil. Apparently, the more the paprika the better the shkembe. Little known fact: The shkembe isn’t just a traditional soup, it also doubles as a post-drinking snack to settle the stomach, and is a great hangover cure.
Tarator: Cool Cucumber Soup
A summer refresher for the Bulgarians, Taratov is always go-to at the start of any meal. Legend has it that the recipe for the soup was stolen from the Greeks and appropriated by Bulgarians after adding a little water. Look for Bulgarian food online and this is probably one of the first things you’ll find.
What you’re often missing though is the traditional Bulgarian white cheese or ‘Sirene’ that is grated on top of the veggies, giving this salad its unique flavour. The name ‘Shopska’ was apparently inspired by a big group of very frugal folks called the ‘Shopi’ who are of Bulgarian ethnicity, often living in the mountainous regions of the country.
According to Bulgarian tradition, Shopska Salata or the Shopska salad is what newlyweds sit down and eat as their first meal together after the ceremonies. The recipe may seem simple, with just a few fresh cut vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers as ingredients.
Kebapche is a variation of one of the most classic dishes of our time across the world: (drumroll please) The Kebab. ‘Kebapche’ as they are called in Bulgaria contain minced meat, spices, and herbs rolled into a long sausage-like roll.
What sets the Bulgarian kebab apart is the fact that Bulgarians grate Sirene, their white cheese, on top of the roll.
Lozovi Sarmi (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
One of the unique Bulgarian dishes you can taste is the Lozovi Sarmi. Often eaten as a starter and sometimes even a main course, Lozovi Sarmi uses grape leaves as a base, and stuffs them with minced meat, rice, herbs, yoghurt and more. Pro Tip: Dip the stuffed leaves in some yoghurt and down some mineral water after every leaf to feel the flavours, wash down the food better and cleanse your palate every
The Traditional Bulgarian Food: Main Courses
Meshana Skara (Mixed Grill)
The Meshana Skara is the holy grail of Bulgarian food, especially if you love meat. The mixed grill includes the classic kebapche, and other meats like kyufte (meatballs much like the Indian kofta) and skewers of pork meat and a pork steak.
These pots are found in every Bulgarian home and often passed down through families over generations or gifted to couples at their weddings. A Gyuvech is a stew that contains beef, mushrooms, peppers and onions. The stew is cooked and then baked after some traditional Kashkaval (Bulgarian yellow cheese) is grated over it. A good Gyuvech will have cooked eggs and a whole lot of Paprika in it. So good way to
The Bulgarian Gyuvech is a great tribute to slow-food culture worldwide. The dish shares its name with the traditional Bulgarian crockery pot.
Chances are, you’ve seen and eaten Moussaka at restaurants all over the world. The dish found its way to Bulgaria from the Middle East when the Ottoman empire ruled for almost 500 years in Bulgaria.
The “king” of Bulgarian food – Kiselo Mlyako: The Secret to Bulgarian Longevity
The yoghurt Kiselo Mlyako is usually served alongside Bulgarian classic dishes. It is a thick, with a sour taste and eating it is supposed to be a great way to keep your gut bacteria healthy.
Legend has it, the Nobel Prize winning zoologist and immunologist Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov studied Bulgarian peasants and the Bulgarian foods they eat. He then attributed their longevity to the amount of yoghurt they consume!
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