They say that if you want to know about a country’s history, take a look at its menu card. History and Romanian Cuisine have always been intertwined, the former forging and shaping the latter.
Romania’s rich culinary heritage is testimony to its cultural diversity, shaped through years of absorbing different elements from other civilizations and adapting it to suit local flavors and ingredients. Immigration and agriculture have proved to be a powerful blend that helped in creating a fusion cuisine in Romania. War and trade also played major roles.
One of the earliest influences on Romanian cuisine was from the Greeks, who set up trade along the Black Sea. The Greeks brought with them musaca or moussaka, an eggplant- (aubergine) or potato-based pie, often including ground meat. The Romanians innovated cabbage into it. They also came up with a sweet version, the sweet pie.
The Turks acted as a cultural vehicle and were primarily responsible for the fact that the Romanians share many food tastes with the Balkan areas. Turkish pilaf is a must-have in Romanian feasts.
Turkish meatballs are quite popular in Romania, especially the ciorba de perisoare (meatball soup), chiftele (deep-fried meatballs, a variation of kofta), and mici (short sausages without casings, usually barbecued); of course, they are cooked with a local twist. Another example of culinary adaptation is the Shawarma or as it is locally known, Shoarma. The Ottoman Empire brought Shawarma to Romania.
However, the ingredients found in the Middle East were not as easily available in Romania. Therefore, the dish underwent a local metamorphosis to emerge as the popular Romanian street food, Shoarma. A Romanian Shoarma consists of a flatbread filled with succulent chicken or pork and topped with local commodities like cabbage, French fries, and tomato sauce. Pickled vegetables and mayonnaise are also common
additions. The Romanian tomato salad is also a variation of the Turkish çoban Salata.
Turkish influence dominates the Romanian sweet tooth too with its assortment of sweets and pastries combining honey and nuts, such as baclava, sarailie, halva, and rahat (Turkish delight).
Austria took control of Transylvania with the help of the Russians and soon Austrian cuisine started making its way into Romanian kitchens. Șnițel – pork, veal, or beef breaded cutlet (a variety of Viennese schnitzel) is a well-loved meat dish in Romania.
Other varieties of schnitzel include the Cordon bleu șnițel – breaded pork tenderloin stuffed with ham and cheese, Mozaic șnițel – a specialty of Western Romania, which is two thin layers of different meats with a mushroom filling and snițel de pui – breaded chicken breast cutlet.
After WWI, Romania ceded Transylvania to Hungary paving the way for Hungarian flavors to pervade Romanian dishes. Ghiveci, a vegetable stew or cooked vegetable salad, is similar to the Hungarian lecsó.
Post-WWII, German influence also marked the Romanian palate, especially their drinks. The Romanian Secărică is a caraway fruit-flavored vodka, similar to the German kummel (a sweet, colorless liqueur flavored with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel).
Romanian Beer, which is also highly popular as generally blonde pilsener beer, has