Food Culture and Tradition

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Meals, Customs and Foods Commonly Used in Romania


The single most important staple of the Romanian diet is mamaliga (the name is of Turkish origin from mama, and means food). Many peasants have survived almost solely on this cornmeal porridge while even the upper classes make it almost a daily part of the menu. Romanians are also fond of spicy and tangy appetizers, cheeses, sour soups, stews of vegetables and meat, grilled and roasted meats and fish as well as sweet desserts and pastries. All of this is enjoyed with good wine, potent plum brandy (Tuica), thick Turkish coffee and sometimes weak tea. Simple or complex, Romanian foods all have distinctive flavors, and as in everything else, contrast are much enjoyed.


Breakfast may of necessity have to be only mamaliga and yogurt or clabbered milk, but Romanians prefer a hearty breakfast including soft-boiled eggs or omelets, sliced ham and sausages, cheeses and dark bread. Lunch or dinner is considered the biggest meal of the day and may be anytime between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. It usually begins with a gustare or “taste” of cheeses, olives, scallions, and Tuica, then on to soup, followed by a good stew of meat or fish with vegetables, a dessert of fruit or pastries or clatite (rolled thin pancakes). This is accompanied by wine and completed with Turkish coffee. The evening meal will be lighter and taken around 9:00 p.m. It is usually made up of leftovers from dinner, noodle or dumpling dishes, or something based on mamaliga (cottage cheese and butter atop a plate of mamaliga for instance). Large servings are the common rule.

Casual visitors are always offered a tray with dulceata, cold water, and tiny cups of Turkish coffee. The procedure is to take small spoonfuls of dulceata followed by sips of water. Turkish coffee completes the ritual. In some areas the offering of the second cup of coffee means that the visit is over and it is time to leave.

Meals at home tend to be not only generous in portions, but simple and hearty. The many-course meal is a rarity except in affluent homes or restaurants. There is little home life in the cities, because of the congested and sparse living quarters, so people enjoy the evening stroll (like the korzo of the former Yugoslavia and the paseo of Spain) with a stop for drinks, snacks, and gossip. Meals in restaurants feature fine-quality beef and all of the complex dishes that require skilled preparations: ciorbas, tocanas. ghivetcu, tortes, strudels, and other specialties. Coffeehouses serve tea and coffee but mostly aperitifs with appetizer plates of olives, pickles, and cheese.

Street vendors sell fresh fruits in season, dried fruit snacks, and the Romanian specialty mititei.

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