Romania Food and Drink
Romanian cuisine is an eclectic mix of different cultural influences, with elements from Turkey, Germany, Hungary all easily discernible. Traditionally, Romanian food tends to be stodgy and meat-based, revolving around dishes such as ciolan afumat (smoked pork knuckle with beans), mamaliga (cornmeal polenta) and carnaţi de pleşcoi (mutton sausages).Breakfasts almost always include eggs, either soft-boiled, hard-boiled, fried or scrambled, and omelettes filled with either cheese, ham or mushrooms are also frequently served.
The highlight of a traditional Romanian restaurant meal is usually the appetiser dish. Both cold and warm appetisers are common, and can include anything from cheese, spring onions, salami and tomatoes to chicken livers, spicy meatballs and stuffed mushrooms. Most mains are served alongside a hearty bowl of fresh vegetable/pork/chicken soup. Cabbage is a culinary favourite and is often used in soups and salads.
In rural areas, it’s unusual to find restaurants serving anything other than traditional Romanian cuisine. In Bucharest, however, and in bigger cities such as Cluj-Napoca, the culinary scene is far more international. You may not find any Michelin-starred restaurants, but there’s the odd gastronomic gem where the standard far surpasses the prices. Avoid fast-food chains – they tend to be only marginally cheaper than locally run restaurants, and are among the only food outlets in the country to serve processed foods.
• Soups: Ciorba de perisoare (soup with meatballs), ciorba tãrãneascã (vegetable soup with meat and rice balls served with sour cream), giblet soup and a variety of fish soups.
• Moldavian parjoale (flat meat patties, highly spiced and served with garnishes).
• Mamaliga (a staple of mashed cornmeal).
• Nisetru la gratar (grilled Black Sea sturgeon).
• Pasca (a sweet cheesecake).
Things to know
Vegetarians may have difficulties, as most local specialities are meat-based. Try asking for mancare de post – food suitable for fasting, which is free from animal products. Although there are inexpensive self-service snack bars, table service is the norm. There are no licensing hours.
A 5 to 10% tip is customary in restaurants.
The legal age for drinking in a bar is 18.
• Tuicã (plum brandy) and Tuicã de Bihor (strong brandy, generally known as palinca).
• Pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, pinot gris and chardonnay from the Murfatlar vineyards.
• Grasa and feteasa (wine from Moldavia's Cotnari vineyards).
• Sparkling wines.
• Glühwein (mulled wine).