If you are invited to someone’s home or choose a good traditional restaurant you’ll be able to sample what’s best about Bulgarian cuisine; plenty of fresh vegetables, eaten raw, roasted or stewed with meat in terra-cotta pots. Lots of garlic, onions, oil and spices. Influences of its neighbours, Turkey and Greece are also present in dishes such as ’sarmi’ (stuffed vine leaves), ‘moussaka’ and ‘baklava’.
Bulgarians like their salads: a salad and rakia (Bulgarian spirit/ schnapps usually made from grapes) are the obligatory start to the meal. Be warned, this stage of the meal can be a very drawn-out process lasting up to an hour.
These are some of the more popular Bulgarian salads, well worth a try:
’shopska salata’ - chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers sprinkled with ’sirene’ (Bulgarian white cheese);
’snezhanka’ - thick creamy yoghurt with chopped cucumber or gherkins, walnuts and garlic;
‘kyopulo’ - roasted aubergines, peppers, loads of garlic, parsley.
Soups are also a very important element in the Bulgarian menu;
‘bob chorba’ - traditional bean soup with plenty of herbs;
’shkembe chorba’ - tripe soup with garlic, vinegar and chilli, quite tasty if you can bring yourself to try it;
‘tarator’ - cold yoghurt and cucumber soup.
Bulgarians like meat - mainly pork (svinsko), veal (teleshko) and chicken (pile)- grilled, fried or as a stew:
‘kavarma’ - meat and vegetable stew, usually served in individual pots;
‘gyuvech’ - stewed chunks of vegetables and lamb;
‘kyufteta’ - spicy meat balls/ hamburgers;
‘kebapcheta’ - spicy mince meat, sausage shaped, grilled.
Vegetarians may find the choice on the menu a bit limiting which is a shame as there are plenty of delicious vegetarian dishes. Usually you can find the following but if all else fails try a selection of starters or a combination salad (a plate of various salads):
‘kashkaval (or sirene) pane’ - fried yellow (or white) cheese;
‘chushki byurek’ - fried peppers stuffed with egg and cheese;
’sirene po shopski’ - white cheese, egg, tomatoes and peppers baked in a pot.
The fame of Bulgarian wine speaks for itself. It is inexpensive and good. Bulgarian beers such as Astika, Zagorka and Kamenitsa are all very continental in their appeal and much cheaper than imported beers. Be wary with spirits, as there is a lot of fake stuff on the market. If it in any way tastes strange, don’t drink it. By the way, the Bulgarian for cheers is ‘Nazdrave!’
Bulgarian cuisine isn’t strong on desserts, most restaurants offer only pancakes or creme caramel. Cafes usually have a good selection of pastries and cakes. The ‘garash torta’ is the Bulgarian equivalent of the Sacher Torte, made from eggs, walnuts and cocoa.
Snacks (zakuska) are available all over town in tiny shops or from stands on the street. If you are feeling a little peckish why not try:
‘banitsa’ - fillo dough pastry filled with white cheese;
‘gevrek’ - like a very dry bagel, sold from big bags on street corners;
‘kifla’ - croissant usually filled with jam;
‘piroshka’ - dough stick filled with white cheese and fried.
Finally, if you are feeling really adventurous, try some ‘boza’, - a thick malt drink with a distinct smell. It’s said to be an acquired taste!
- Bulgarians tend to serve food warm rather than piping hot.
- Bulgarians think nothing of lighting up a cigarette in the middle of their salad, so if you are a non-smoker, brace yourself!
- When ordering a main course in a restaurant, check if it comes with ‘garnitura’ (potatoes or veg) - usually you have to order side dishes extra
In Bulgaria you have to try organic food and home made food- they are all very delicious and healthy!