Mamaliga, Romania’s national food, is a bright yellow porridge made from authentic Romanian corn. This dish resembles the polenta, a famous Italian and Hungarian cornmeal dish.
Historically, Mamaliga was a staple food among peasants and dirt poor Romanians. Through time, the dish developed into a major meal and is even served at high-end bistros at present.
Mamaliga is usually cooked in traditional Romanian pots called ceaun or tuci. A mixture of steaming water, salt, and cornmeal is cooked into a slightly thick consistency, although the old practice is to come up with a bread-like thickness.
The porridge goes well with cheese, sour cream, or hot milk.
Ardei umpluţi, or stuffed peppers
Ardei umpluţi is a common stuffed pepper dish made extra special by a unique Romanian style of preparation. The dish uses bell peppers, often yellow ones, stuffed with minced ingredients that usually consist of ground meat (pork is most often used), rice, vegetables, and other spices such as onion, parsley, dill, salt and pepper.
The properly seasoned ingredients for the filling are first manually stuffed inside the peppers, leaving no unoccupied space inside the peppers. The pieces are then cooked in a special sauce made from water, tomato paste, and sour cream.
The dish is tightly covered with aluminum foil and baked at 375 F. After approximately an hour, the foil covering is removed and the bell peppers are baked for another hour.
The finished product is best served with sour cream spread on top.
Cozonac, or walnut panetone
Little does the rest of the world know that Romanians have a sweet tooth too. Romanians are fond of preparing lip-smacking gourmet desserts, especially during special occasions and holidays.
One of the traditional Romanian sweet treats is the cozonac, also known as panetone or sweet bread filled with rich walnut cream.
The bread is a special mix of flour, butter, sugar, milk, rum, and vanilla extracts, then baked using a customary bread maker machine. During the process of kneading, the dough is layered, filled with the walnut cream, and sprinkled with flour.
The bread is baked at 191 C or 375 for slightly less than an hour. The butter-glazed golden brown final product is often showered with confectioner’s sugar.
Sarmale, or Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls
Cabbage rolls are cabbage leaves stuffed with different kinds of fillings. Sarmale, the special Romanian recipe of this dish, includes unusual ingredients such as bacon strips, sauerkraut or shredded sour cabbage, and the Romanian mamaliga or cornmeal porridge.
Due to its simplicity and comforting taste, salmare is constantly enjoyed by Romanians without regard to occasion, holiday, or season.
Mititei, or Romanian sausages
Mititei sausages are actually meat patties, usually made from beef, pork, or lamb and mixed with seasonings such as garlic, onion, paprika, pepper, coriander, and thyme.
Romanians believe that this dish was invented by Ionescu Iordache, a Transylvanian who owned a bar that sells Romanian sausages.
Mititei sausages are usually grilled, although they can also be fried or baked. These tiny meat rolls are best enjoyed with low-vinegar mustard and beer.
Mititei is usually served in sidewalk restaurants as finger foods or snacks. These sausages are also packaged frozen in supermarkets for easy purchase.