Traditional Food in Romania
The first most important thing about Romanian food is: Romanians eat a lot of pork. Most of the traditional dishes are variations on how to best cook pork.
The second most important thing is: portion size varies from big to huge. Do not order a 3 course meal in advance because it's an obscene quantity of food. You might not be able to finish it, consider yourself warned! However, it's culturally acceptable to leave food on the plate.
Paradise For Meat Lovers
Dishes you will want to try: 'sarmale' - minced pork meet (although duck or vegetarian options are available in some restaurants). The meat is rolled in cabbage leaves, baked in the oven and served with polenta. Pork steak, pork ribs and pork scruff are also some of the highlights of Romanian traditional food. If you are feeling extremely hungry, go for the pork knuckle.
Chicken is widely available and some restaurants now offer duck dishes too. Beef is the one you need to be careful with. Most restaurants struggle with their beefsteaks. If you order a 'medium-rare' there is a big chance for you either get it well done or very rare.
Fish is not yet a constant in the diet of many Romanians. Grilled or baked trout with polenta and garlic sauce is most common and quite a favorite with the locals. At the Black Sea there's a lot more variety in salt water fish and the Black Sea mussels are delicious.
Vegan And Vegetarian in Romania
For vegans and vegetarians, traditional food in Romania might be challenging. If you plan to stick to Bucharest and the big towns, then you don’t have a problem. Many restaurants have introduced vegetarian and vegan options in the menus. Cities like Bucharest, Cluj, Brasov and Sibiu have vegan/vegetarian restaurants.
The countryside might need more effort in making sure your meal is vegan. Many Romanians do not care for the concept of a self imposed meat free diet. If you visit Romania during the fasting period for the Orthodox church, then you are lucky! Many restaurants have dedicated menus with plant based dishes.
Roaring Romania recommends : Vegan Bucharest: My Restaurant Guide by Mostly Amelie.
Drinks in Romania
There are 3 main drinks that one must try in Romania: wine, beer and the strong 40% alcohol tuica.
Romanian wine is of very good quality and the country has a multitude of wine regions. Lesser known fact but Romania is the 10th largest producer of wine in the world.
Feteasca Neagra is the local red wine and the best region for it, is Dealu Mare, about 100kms away from Bucharest. You will find it in all the restaurants and bars of Bucharest and most of the places in other towns.
For white wine try the Feteasca Regala grape. Transylvania is the best region for white wine, between the towns of Medias and Bistrita. The Medias white wine is even mentioned in the famous Dracula novel by Bram Stoker.
For the beer lovers, you need to know that Romanian beer is unpretentious and of good quality. Ursus is the largest brand, Silva and Ciuc coming in after that. Craft beer has become fashionable in the last couple of years and you will be able to sport craft beer pubs in the larger towns, like Bucharest, Brasov and Cluj.
Romanian Plum Brandy ‘Tuica’
Tuica (read tzuika) is a 40% alcohol made out of plums, apricots or pears. Locals can make it out of grapes or other fruit but it is unanimously accepted that plum is the best quality one.
How do you recognize good tuica? You shouldn't get a burning feeling when you drink it. It is a strong drink but you should feel the aroma and perfume of the fruit, not burning alcohol.
Tuica is an appetizer, drink it in small sips before your food so you get hungry enough to be able to finish that 3 course meal you've been warned about.
'Pofta buna!' or Enjoy your dinner!