Romanian and Moldavian chicken soup

Zama (zeama), Romanian and Moldavian chicken soup with noodles.

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Update history

The article was written 8.4.2007.
It was then modified 23.6.2007.

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Eat traditional Romanian food (Dining)

Well, going around Romania will give you plenty of chances to visit great places, to do some souvenirs shopping or mingling with the locals. But all of that can be really tiring, and I know you will finally end up into a nice restaurant with the intention of having a rich, traditional dinner. I must say you are in the right place as Romania is famous for its tasty food and wines.

Dining Romania can be an interesting experience, most of the times a pleasant one, if you get in the right place. Romanian food excels in full-bodied soups, the most popular being the chicken soup, beef, vegetable or bean soup, while the breakfast consists mainly in eggs (fried, omelettes or soft-boiled).

What is great in Romania is that the food is 100% natural. The tourists will clearly feel the difference between the fruits and vegetables bought from their local grocery and the ones freshly picked from a Romanian garden. This happens because the local growers avoid using herbicides/pesticides to grow their crops. Especially in the rural areas, tourists can taste some home made cheese and bread, fresh milk or fresh meat as Romanians like everything tasty and all natural.

If you are a vegetarian, you might encounter some difficulties as the traditional Romanian food is meat-based.

Romanian wines are very tasty, and the locals say "Noroc!" that can be translated as "Cheers!" but it actually means "Good luck". A funny thing is that this word is used both for the toasts and if someone sneezes.

Tuica, the most popular drink in Romania, is made of plums, apples or peaches and is as strong as whiskey. It has a fruity flavor, yet strong and acquired, but don't be deceived by the crystal clear aspect; tuica can really cloud your thinking after a couple of glasses.

Junk food is everywhere, fortunately for those tourists who want a taste of home. There is McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and you will see that the food has the same taste and consistency as back home. You will find here any possible kind of food from the international cuisine, like Italian food, Chinese or Mexican food. However, it would be a pity not to try the traditional dishes.

Eating in tradidional restaurants

The restaurants with a traditional theme will offer you with a great atmosphere created by live Romanian folk music and staff dressed in national costumes. The prices are always reasonable, even if for the locals they often seem too high.

Tip: If you are goint to have a dinner in a restaurant, make sure you choose a bigger one; you will spare yourself of unpleasant surprises, like undercooked dinner.

Tip: Want something different? Ciorba de burta is a soup made from cow intestines. The dish is recommended only for those initiated in Romanian food.

Romanian food specialties

Here are the national specialties when it comes to Romanian food:

National FoodNational Drinks
Ciorba de perisoare: Soup with meatballs.
Mamaliga: A staple of mashed cornmeal.
Pasca: Sweet cheesecake.
Sarmale: minced pork mixed with rice and spices then rolled up in marinated cabbage leaves.
Mici: A kind of skinless sausages on the grill made out of pork and beef meat.
Nisetru la gratar: Grilled Black Sea sturgeon.
Tuica: a type of brandy made of plums
Palinca: a very strong brandy
Wines: Feteasca and Grasa de Cotnari; Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay from Murfatlar vineyards.
Local beers: Ursu, Silva, Kaiser

Tipping

Regarding the tipping customs, some tourists find there are few inconsistencies from what they are used to and the local customs. You see, tourists don't like to refuse paying for an excellent service, while the local consider that they are tipping the staff too much.

Romanians usually tip at the end of the dinner, by rounding up the final bill. Tourists find hard not to tip excessively, by considering they are giving something in return to the local economy, but the fact is that only one segment of the economy actually benefits from it. If you intend to leave a tip, around 15% from the final bill would be good while dining in Romania.

Eating with locals

Restaurants can be great choices for dinner, but the restaurant food never matches the dishes prepared in a local's home. If you have friends or you have found accommodation in a local's house, you can buy the groceries and ask the host to prepare you a traditional meal; you will see that Romanian ladies are exquisite cooks!

Regional foods

If you decide to have dinner in one of the mountain pensions, I recommend you to start with a hot glass of palinca (the traditional brandy), then go inside and check the hunt steak (bear, deer, rabbit) or some fresh fish straight from the mountain rivers steaming with vegetables on the grill.

When visiting the Danube delta, you will have the chance to try out a lot of fish courses. Trust me on that: try the fish borsch, a sour soup made of fish and water taken from the Danube. I know, this might seem unusual for the western visitors, but just eat it. You will be surprised of the abundance of spices and flavors' going through your mouth, as this is how all Romanian food is.

Can't you feel the flavor yet? :-)