10 Bulgarian Food Classics
You need on your bucket list!
10 Bulgarian food classics you need on your bucket list
Bulgaria, the land where Balkan and Slavic revelry mee Guvech eastern European grit and stoicism. The country is also incidentally the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet! The country 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. Here we are going to share with you 10 food classics you need on your bucket list.
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 complement the splendid hospitality and surroundings. Here’s what you can expect from a traditional Bulgarian meal.
- Bulgarian Gyuvech – Vegetable Casserole with Meat in a Clay Pot
It’s a really nutritious dish that’s high in vitamins and protein. It’s typically made with pork or beef, tomatoes, okra, mushrooms, peas, green beans, potatoes, eggplant, onions, herbs, and spices, and it’s sometimes served with “Balkan Mixed Salad,” a mix of roasted eggplant, sweet roasted peppers, garlic, and 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.
Lukanka is a type of dry, cured Bulgarian sausage. It is a traditional delicacy in Bulgarian cuisine and is similar to other dry sausages found in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Is typically made from a mixture of ground pork and beef, seasoned with various spices such as salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and garlic.
The meat mixture is then stuffed into natural casings, usually made from pork intestines, and left to dry and cure for a period of time. The sausages are often air-dried in a cool, well-ventilated area for several weeks or even months, which helps develop their distinctive flavour.
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.
If you’re looking for additional food classics related to our cuisine, you may find a complete list of typical Bulgarian foods here.
- Tarator (Cold Soup)
Tarator is a cold soup or refreshing yoghurt-based beverage that is popular in several Balkan and Middle Eastern countries, particularly in Bulgaria. A summer refresher for the Bulgarians, Tarator is always the 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.
The main ingredients of tarator include yogurt, cucumbers, water, garlic, and sometimes dill or other herbs. The yogurt serves as the base and is typically thinned down with water to create a more liquid consistency. The cucumbers are usually grated or finely chopped and added to the mixture, providing a crisp and refreshing element to the dish.
- Shopska Salad
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 popular grilled meat dish originating from Bulgaria. It is a type of sausage or elongated meatball traditionally made from minced pork or beef, or a combination of the two. Kebabche is a popular street food in Bulgaria and is also commonly found on restaurant menus. It is enjoyed as a main course or as part of a mixed grill platter, and it is particularly favoured during outdoor gatherings, picnics, and barbecues.
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.
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.
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 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