Dairy products play such a vital role in Bulgarian diet that Bulgarians seldom slaughter cows for beef. Instead, they reserve the cows for milk, which is often processed into cheese. Yogurt is liberally consumed as snacks.
Most dishes found on the Bulgarian table are baked or stewed. Deep frying is seldom done. Rakia, an alcoholic beverage made from mixed fruits, goes well with most dishes.
Here are some of the popular dishes in Bulgaria:
Commonly referred to as white Bulgarian cheese, sirene is a brine cheese similar to feta. It was originally made exclusively from goat’s milk, but nowadays, cow’s milk is becoming an acceptable substitute.
The white cheese is commonly produced in soft blocks. Used mainly as a table cheese, it has a slightly grainy texture.
Its sharp taste goes well with soups and salads. Bits of cheese are sometimes added when frying egg to give it a distinctive Bulgarian twist.
Sirene is also often used in Bulgarian stuffed peppers and pasta dishes.
The cheese has been around since the medieval times, and the way it is processed today remains faithful to the original. Together with yogurt, sirene is one of the national foods of Bulgaria.
Moussaka is a Balkan dish that traces its roots back from Greece. Varieties differ from country to country.
The Bulgarian style relies heavily on potatoes and minced meat, usually veal. These are mixed in a bowl, then topped by a thick layer of egg custard before it is baked in a traditional oven.
The finished product is something similar to lasagna, except that pasta is not used.
Often served with plain yogurt, moussaka can satisfy even the hungriest of tummies.
Shopska derives its name from Shoppi, the people living in the city of Sofia. It is the most popular cold salad in the country and is said to be popularized by the Bulgarian government in the early 1960s to attract tourists.
The salad ingredients are fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and roasted peppers. Salt and vinegar are added for taste. To top it all off, a half pound of sirene cheese is grated until the salad is covered in white cheese, making an excellent appetizer.
Tarator is a refreshing, no-cook soup that is a favorite in the Balkans. Served as an appetizer or a side dish, it has varieties in different Balkan countries. The Bulgarian version commonly uses sunflower oil.
Cucumber, which is the base ingredient, is chopped finely. Garlic is then pressed before yogurt and water are added to the mix.
Tarator is a nutritious dish that is low in calorie and high in fiber. Served chilled, tarator is a favorite summer dish.
Banitsa is a Bulgarian pastry made from a mixture of whisked eggs and sirene cheese layered between filo pastry. It is then baked in an oven until it becomes golden brown.
Tradition prevails when baking banitsa. Lucky charms are stuffed into the pastry during Christmas and New Year.
These harbingers of fortune may come in the form of a small dogwood branch with a bud, a coin, or little pieces of paper rolled in tin foil.
The pie is sliced into several pieces and then spun on the table before serving. Each diner gets a piece and, with it, a corresponding fortune, depending on what charm is contained in the piece that they get.