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Food & Drinks
Romanian food isn't very unique, many countries around us share the same dishes with different names and minor variations.
The main local dishes are:
- sarmale - minced meat, rice, onions and spices are mixed and then rolled into grape or cabbage leaves and then cooked in hot water for a couple of hours;
- mititei (mici) - grilled, longish and spiced meatballs usually made from beef meat or mixed beef and mutton meat;
- mamaliga (polenta) - used in the past as a bread substitute in poorer areas of the country but now it's served everywhere; made out of yellow maize cooked in boiling water with salt; when cold, it can be cut into slices just like bread; usually served hot mixed with cheese and eggs;
- cozonac - cake prepared during Christmas or Easter; it's a yeast cake, bread shaped, with milk, sugar, eggs butter and different fillings depending on the maker (raisins, nuts, cocoa, etc.);
- zacusca - very popular dish made of vegetables; usually prepared during autumn and served during winter; the main ingredients are eggplants, red peppers and onions; depending on who makes it, there are different versions containing, besides the main items, ingredients such as tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, olives etc.; it can be either home made or commercially available; it's usually eaten after spreading it on a piece of bread;
- eggplant salad (salata de vinete) - a salad made from mixing grilled and chopped eggplants, onions and sunflower oil.
and a couple of others.
Another main local dish, losing in popularity amongst the youth, is tripe soup (not actually soup; similar to it but sour).
Street food include donuts with different fillings (chocolate, cheese, apples, strawberries, etc.), pretzels (there are special places that make them named "Simigerii" - singular: "Simigerie") or mititei (see above). This if we are to strictly limit ourselves to Romanian food, otherwise you can easily find kebab, shawarma or souflaki in many cities.
During Easter a special dish is prepared named "drob", which is cake-shaped containing fresh green vegetables and the internal organs of the lamb. A lot of lamb is being eaten during Easter, by the way.
There's a good variety of restaurants serving international food such as Chinee, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Turkish or French in the major cities, especially in Bucharest.
Many international fast food chains have set shop in Romania as well, including McDonalds and KFC. The standards of quality and cleanliness they serve are usually of higher standards compared to those they offer in developed countries since they've considered as being mid to high end restaurants in Romania.
Palinca is the strongest of drinks, containing 60% pure alcohol. Then comes ţuica, usually made of plums but lately produced in other flavours as well, with 40% pure alcohol. Many Romanians living in rural arease produce these two drinks by themselves at home. With that said, there are plenty of companies that have such drinks in their portfolio, so you shouldn't worry if you want to try them out but are wary to do it from the locals.
Wine is next. The real alcohol percentage varies, but most of them have this indicator at around 12%. Romania is a big wine producer and some of the best wineries are Murfatlar, Cotnari, Bohotin, Jidvei etc.
Beer in Romania is cheap. The most important local brand is Ursus. Ursus Premium and Ursus Black are quite good and they come cheap (usually less than 1 USD). There are many international brands produced locally such as Tuborg, Carlsberg, Heineken, Becks or Peroni. If you long for high end, foreign made beers such as Guiness or Leffe then you can buy them either in mid to high end pubs and restaurants or from supermarkets, cash and carries and hypermarkets (such as Billa, Metro and Real just to name a few).
Another important drink, especially during communist times, is "braga" usually served by the "simigerii" (see the "food" section above) with their pretzels. It lacks alcohol, it has a sour taste and it is made from fermented wheat.