As I researched Romanian food before visiting Romania, I mostly read about how it was “hearty” and “heavy”. And while I found much of the local fare is quite heavy, it’s not always the case.
Romanian food, while holding its own distinct characteristics, also borrows from surrounding countries and cultures. In the local dishes, you can see examples of Ottoman, German, Bulgarian and Serbian influence.
This unique blend, along with the tradition of making use of what’s seasonally available, means Romanian food is unique and, as I found out, quite delicious.
After recently spending several months in Romania, I have come up with my list of the top 6 Romanian dishes you must try when you visit yourself.
The Best of Romanian Food
Sarmale is a very typical Romanian dish that can be found on most menus. The dish consists of sour cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of pork and beef and served with sides of polenta (or mamaliga as it’s locally known) and usually salty smoked bacon.
Mici, which translates to “small one”, are short, skinless sausages grilled over an open flame. The sausages are a mixture of lamb, beef, pork, and a variety of spices.
Mici is typically served with fresh bread and mustard. You can always smell these being grilled from halfway down the block, and I’ve literally never been able to stop after eating just one. Locals usually order at least three at a time.
Romanian soup culture is very real and has created some of the best soups I’ve ever tasted. The country’s specialty is a type of soup known as ciorba, or sour soup. Ciorba differs from regular soup by adding an acid (usually lemon juice) to make the soup sour.
Soups generally consist of both a mixture of meat and vegetables and are almost always served with fresh bread, sour cream, and pickled peppers.
My favorite non-sour soup is a beef and vegetable soup known as peasants soup. This version was served with plenty of freshly sliced onions.
Veal in a Mushroom Wine Sauce
Although pork is the most commonly eaten meat, Romanians also make delicious beef dishes. This house specialty (known as muschi de vitel la tingire cu sos de vin ciuperci si orez) is veal in a sauce of wine and mushrooms and served with polenta. The meat was slow-cooked and served fork tender. Make sure to seek this dish out on menus during your visit!
Bulz Ciobanesc (Sheperd’s Polenta Ball)
Don’t let the unassuming look of this dish fool you- it’s one of the best I had in Romania. The dish is layered with cheese, polenta, and bacon. It’s delicious, but definitely not light or anything I recommend for someone on a diet. How can you go wrong with bacon and cheese?
Salata de Icre (Romanian fish egg salad)
Don’t let the name of this one scare you off like it almost did me. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish.
The salad, served as an appetizer, is more of a spread than an actual salad. Fresh roe (fish eggs) are mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped shallots and served with fresh bread. This is a very typical starter that you’ll find on most tables before a dinner.
Ok, ok– I know wine doesn’t actually count as a dish, but it was on the table for nearly every meal so I’m including it. Romania has some truly great wines that no one ever seems to talk about.
I was fortunate enough to visit a couple of vineyards during my Experience Bucharest trip and tried many varieties of local wine. The vineyards in Romania make some truly excellent wines, and the bottles are affordably priced.
One of my favorite wineries was the LacertA Winery — the grounds of the vineyard are gorgeous, the workers are knowledgeable and friendly, and the wine was delicious.
What do you think of Romanian food? Is there a dish you’d most like to try? Let me know in the comments section below!
Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.