If you are a passionate traveler, a large part of your foreign cultural exploration is undoubtedly food… or in this case – Bulgarian food. One cannot truly understand the life of the other if they don’t mix things up with the local cuisine.
Spicing up your trip with new flavors is a must and Bulgaria is the country where it can get real messy, saucy, cheesy, steaming hot in a clay pot or simply delicious! Bulgaria is a country that will never leave you hungry for two reasons. Firstly, there is the wealth of food for all tastes and secondly, Bulgarians are the kind of people that will always make sure your plate has been filled at least 3 times, and your belt loosened by at least 2 holes.
Undoubtedly, our number one dish is banitsa. This queen of Bulgarian specialties is a pastry usually stuffed with cheese but there are plenty of other versions for the adventurous type – spinach, cabbage, apple, pumpkin, eggs or meat, or a combo of these could be your daily joy. The shape of banitsa also vary impressively, just like our people – round or slim, long or short – there is something for everybody. Bantitsa is known as a breakfast meal but it is also eaten for brunch, lunch, dinner or just as a snack in between. It is truly traditional with recipes passed through the family and yet one of the foods that can be found on every corner in every village and city. Here’s our guide Alissa with more information:
Maybe you’ve heard a legend during your travels: there is a country in the world where tomatoes are actually tasty! Well, this country happens to be Bulgaria! Tomatoes are essential when talking about bulgarian food. When mixed with our equally luscious cucumbers and our homegrown white cheese, you get Shopska salad. It might sound small but what it lacks in complexity it makes up for in taste. Eaten mainly in the summer when fresh veg is available everywhere this salad is a top choice for every Bulgarian. Why such an odd name? Well, it is named after the ethnographic region of Sofia and it has a interesting story behind its creation that you can find out if you visit the 365 Culture Tour.
If you ever get into a discussion with a Bulgarian about their childhood you will probably hear the following story: ‘we used to play all day long outside and our grandmothers used to chase us down with a ‘filiya s liutenitza’ (a slice of bread with liutenitsa on top) to feed us.
The spread is made of roasted peppers, tomatoes and eggplants and has a nice shiny red color Bulgaria’s very own ketchup. We preserve it in little jars and keep it for the winter. I like to think about the making of liutenitsa as the time that brings the family together. There is a lot of work involved! While someone is roasting peppers, another is peeling them as a third mashes the tomatoes. These are times when we appreciate the help of all relatives especially if we make enough to feed all the grandchildren, third cousins and distant aunties.
Meatlovers, this is your section! If you want to eat meat as a Bulgarian you have to start with this dish. If you enjoy eating grilled meat – kebapche is the one for you. Kebapche is made of minced meat with local spices and shaped into a long meatball. Long meatball?! *good luck imagination*.
If you are out for beers at the nearby kruhchma (a typical Bulgarian restaurant with cheap bulgarian food and beers where all the locals go) and you get snacky beyond mere french fries, you should follow not the classy but the classic and order some of these. They can be fried or grilled and might come with a side dish or in a bun. Kebapche is so popular that you can find it at almost all concerts, festivals and other big gatherings. Politicians have even been known to buy votes with them.
Bob is nice. It is best in the mountains. Bob is sometimes a bit stinky. But Bob is not your uncle. Bob means ‘beans’ in Bulgarian and is used for the making of a traditional dish. Bob is usually cooked in a pot. Have you seen some of those really beautiful and colorful traditional ceramic pots? Most authentic restaurants offer this bean dish in traditional pottery as it keeps the heat and allows the beans to cook slowly. This is the food that we have when we’re hiking in the mountains. It is simple to cook so every hut that wants to offer the tired hikers something warm and tasty relies on the magic of this bean soup.
Any article about Bulgarian food will be incomplete without it. A hot summer day. You are hungry but you don’t really feel like stuffing yourself with a hot meal. Your belly is rumbling though. What do you do? You eat tarator. A cold soup with yoghurt and cucumbers – extra easy to make. You add water to the yoghurt so it becomes soupy, add chopped cucumbers, garlic, dill, oil and salt. If you want to be fancy – you add some walnuts. Ah! Summer is great!
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Author: Free Sofia Tour guide – Kristina Arnaudova
Want to learn more about Bulgarian customs and traditions? Do not hesitate to join our Culture tour.