Bulgarian food is tasty and hearty. It benefits from many cross cultural influences, especially Indian, as Bulgaria was a major stop-off point on the old spice routes through the Middle East and Europe. This means that some of the staple dishes you’d find in the likes of Turkey, Serbia and Greece are also present in Bulgaria – but with a Balkan twist. Famed for their fresh meats, often infused with mild spices, and the quality of fresh produce, there’s no denying that Bulgarian cuisine will sate the appetite of some of the biggest foodies. So whether you’re visiting for a weekend break or a little longer, here’s the lowdown on what’s best:
Banitsa Pastries are prized in Bulgaria and there are bakeries all over the country. Banitsa is one of the most popular pastries, and is usually filled with feta cheese, though there are all different types of varieties including pumpkin, spinach and mushroom. Banitsa are quite greasy and make brilliant brunch items or a tasty snack to tuck into during a busy day of sightseeing. Although mainly savoury, you can find sweet Banitsa too. Try the ones filled with apple and walnuts – delicious!
It’s not often that a salad makes its way into a country’s top dishes, but the Shopska Salata needs no justification. Simple and delicious, it is made up of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and sirene cheese. The colours of the ingredients in here perfectly match the colours of the Bulgarian flag which may or may not be a coincidence! Always served using high quality ingredients, the Shopska Salata is usually served as a starter.
This is a spicy sausage which is often served by itself, but accompanied by a drink – usually wine or a beer. This is quite similar to a few Italian sausages, namely sopresatta. Cured and flavoured with a variety of spices, this is best served cold. The sausage is such a hit in Bulgaria that you’ll often find it served in restaurants like bread – placed on the table ready to be tucked into.
Often mistaken for being a Greek dish, moussaka is Bulgarian through and through. Made with layers of creamy potatoes, minced meat, tomatoes and a classic white sauce, moussaka is traditionally served with yoghurt. Moussaka is rich dish and each region of the country will have a variation on it (as will most homes!) which makes it much more interesting. For example, sometimes it might be spicy – infused with paprika – and other times it might taste much more Italian with the addition of basil and bay leaves.
Similar to Greek dolmas, Sarmi are made from either grape or cabbage leaves which are then stuffed with a combination of meat (usually minced lamb or beef) and rice. They are then boiled and can be served hot or cold. Delicious with a fiery tomato salsa.
Time for a drink! Rakia is one of the most popular drinks among Slavic people. It’s a fruit brandy that is made from any kind of available fruit which is then fermented. In Bulgaria, grape rakia is considered the finest variety though plum and cherry are close runners up.