Cookbook:Cuisine of Bulgaria
Bulgarian food could easily be called one of the wonders of this world. Its unique character has developed through the ages out of wealth of local culinary traditions, intertwined with foreign influence in a way which is possible only in Bulgaria, a culture rich in history and traditions. The result, the unique Bulgarian cuisine, offers an incomparable taste with unique characteristics, originality and exceptional variety.
The variety in Bulgarian cuisine is based on the long history of the country, as well as on the long-lasting migrations of the tribes that founded Bulgaria more than 1300 years ago. The close contact with Turkey and Greece have helped us form a very attractive, and to some extent exotic, national cuisine, including some dishes which cannot be called national but which are typical of Bulgaria only. That's one of the things Bulgarians miss most when they are abroad and one of the things that make them come back.
Indeed, who would not like the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, juicy meat, grilled or served with piquant sauces, mouth-watering vegetarian dishes, simmered slowly on low heat, the banitsa (cheese pie) which simply melts in your mouth, and famous Bulgarian yogurt?
If you go to the country, good food will be just a part of what you'll be impressed by. Because, above all, Bulgaria is a state of traditions. And whatever you eat, you'll be told that it is a part of a particular custom, i.e. if the meal is on the menu, it's just because it is on the custom.
Many of the Bulgarian products and dishes are known in various other parts of the world. But it's a pity that very few foreigners know how to cook original Bulgarian meals. Gourmets have long since esteemed the merits of Bulgarian cuisine with the verdict that it is tasty, spicy and varied, appealing to one and all.
So, what's actually the secret? Above all, the concurrent cooking of products at a low temperature. Make sure that the food simmers—boil, roast or stew gently. That is the only way to retain the nutritive qualities, achieving superb favour at the same time. The same effect is reached with the variety of products which agree well with the seasoning.
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 terracotta pots. Lots of garlic, onions, oil and spices. Influences of its neighbours, Turkey and Greece are also present in dishes such as "sarmi" (vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat with rice and spices), "moussaka" and "baklava".
Bulgarians like their salads: A salad and Rakiya (Bulgarian spirit manufactured through distillation of fermented grapes, plums or other fruits. Its alcoholic content is 36-55o) are the usual start to the meal. Be warned, this stage of the meal can be a very drawn-out process lasting up to an hour.
A wealth of Bulgarian recipes (in English) could be found on Find Bulgarian Food website. Here are some of the more popular Bulgarian meals, salads and desserts, well worth a try:
- "Shopska Salata"- chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers sprinkled with 'sirene' (Bulgarian white cheese);
- "Snezhanka"- thick creamy yogurt with chopped cucumber or gherkins, walnuts and garlic;
- "Kyopulo"- hors d'oeuvre/salad of mashed baked eggplant, peppers, loads of garlic, parsley, vinegar and sunflower oil.
Soups are also a very important element in the Bulgarian menu;
- "Bob Chorba"- traditional bean soup with plenty of herbs;
- "Zelenchukova Supa"- Vegetable soup
- "Gabi supa"- tasty mushroom soup
- "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.
- "Supa Topcheta"-Bulgarian meatball soup
- "Shashlik"-Small pieces of meat on a sweker, with peppers, onions and baby mushrooms
- "Gyuvetch"- hotch-potch) - a dish of vegetables and meat baked in an earthenware pot;
- "Kyufteta"- spicy meat balls/ hamburgers;
- "Kebapcheta"- spicy mince meat, sausage shaped, grilled.
Very popular is also Gyuveche, a catch-all dish, you can make with just about anything you have in the fridge. It gets its name from the small individual ceramic dishes in which it's traditionally cooked and served.
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/breaded yellow (or white) cheese;
- "Chushki byurek"- roasted fried peppers stuffed with egg and cheese;
- "Sirene po Shopski"- white cheese, egg, tomatoes and peppers baked in a pot;
- "Banitsa"- baked thin sheets of pastry with a filling of white cheese and eggs or vegetables
The fame of Bulgarian high-quality wine speaks for itself. The Bulgarian white and red wines such as Gumza, Dimiat, Pamid, Muscat, Misket, Mavrud and Melnik are well known to connoisseurs. Traditionally, Bulgaria boasts five wine-growing regions, specialized in the production of typical wines. In general, South Bulgaria is known for its red wines, North Bulgaria for white wine. The Black Sea area, too, is an important viticultural region, Bourgas, Pomorie and Varna being its three main centers. The smallest viticultural region in Bulgaria - the area around Melnik famous for its full-bodied red wine - is known for its specific microclimate.
Bulgaria is also the only country to celebrate Wine-growers' Day. February, 3rd (new style Feb 14th) which is in fact the day which we call Trifon Zarezan (St.Trifon's Day). It dates back to the ancient Thracians. Winegrowers celebrate with wine-trimming ceremonies on this day. So this is a celebration dedicated to a drink, which is not celebrated anywhere else in the world. It is also essential that one knows that Bulgarian wine has very long traditions and is famous for its quality. The identity of St. Trifon's Day proves the importance of this day for the Bulgarians.
To learn more about Bulgarian folklore, see the Bulgarian Folklore Calendar.
Find Bulgarian Food - Online guide to Bulgarian food, recipes, restaurants and stores.