Staples Specialities food

mm&liga is a word you'd better familiarise yourself with, and quick. You'll find it on every menu, and you're likely to be served it in guesthouses morning, noon or night. In short, it is a cornmeal mush similar to polenta, and can be boiled, baked or fried. Traditionally it is served with nothing more than a sprinkling of brdnzd, a salty sheep cheese. Mamahga ■ ,in he frightfully bland (and very filling), especially the kind served up in diners and bistros, but when home-made, warm, and served with lirsh smantana (sour cream), it ranks up there as one of the world's best . omfort foods. There's also a delicious variation called bulz - mamahga

I.iyered with cheese and baked in the oven with butter.

Ciorba (soup) is the other mainstay of the Romanian diet. It is tart, ileliciously warming on cold winter days and often served with a dollop nl smantana. Favourites include ciorba de perifoare (spicy soup with meatballs and vegetables) and ciorba de legume (vegetable soup cooked with meat stock). Often bors (a fermented liquid mixture of bran and water) is added to give a sour taste. The undisputed ciorba king is ciorba de burta, a lightly garlicky soup made of tripe (that's cow innards for the less quaint); for flavour, a fatty piece of beef is often added. The idea .ilone is enough to send some running, but locals swear by it. Often, soup leftovers are transformed into ghiveci (vegetable stew) or tocana (onion and meat stew) for the following day's dinner.

Tochitura is likely to be found on most menus across both countries. There are regional variances (see Regional & Seasonal Cooking p44), but It's usually comprised of pan-fried pork, sometimes mixed with other meats, in a spicy pepper sauce served with mamdliga and topped with a fried egg. In cheaper restaurants, this can be horribly salty, the meat rubbery, but when done well, it's delicious. Sarmale (cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with spiced meat and rice), an inheritance from the days of Ottoman rule, is another popular dish; it's hard to go wrong with that one. Restaurants and beer gardens typically offer mititei or mid (meedj; spicy grilled meatballs). Other common dishes are mu$chi de vaca/porc/ miel (cutlet of beef/pork/lamb), ficat (liver), piept de pui (chicken breast) and cabanos prajit (fried sausages).

Typical desserts include placinta (turnovers), clatite (crepes) and cozonac (a brioche). Saraillie is a yummy almond cake soaked in syrup. Papana$i are cheese-filled pastries covered with jam and sour cream.

Galla Sperber's The Art of Romanian Cooking is a great compendium of all of the country's best dishes. Imagine, now you can make your own mamaliga (corn mush) in the comfort of your own home!

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