In meat-loving Eastern Europe, Romania was an unexpected treat for my vegetarian taste buds. Partly because the country’s orthodox population goes on a vegan fast twice a week or six weeks a year, and partly because the countryside produces some of the finest vegetables and fruits in the region.
This is my little guide to vegetarian food in Romania, and the best places to sample Romanian food in Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu and Sighet:
WHAT TO EAT
Though Romanian cuisine is largely meat-based, atleast a few vegetarian and de post (for fasting, so vegan) options feature on menus in most parts of the country. These were my favorite veggie indulgences:
FASULE BATUTA (mashed beans)
A sumptuous dish of mashed kidney beans, topped with onions, and eaten with bread.
ZACUSCA (vegetable dips)
A popular dish comprising dips of mushroom, tomato, aubergine and chickpeas, served with a salad and bread.
Mushrooms in all forms – in a creamy stew, lightly sauteed, cooked semi-dry with other veggies, stuffed with cheese.
MARCARE DE POST (fasting food)
Orthodox christians in Romania have a tradition of fasting twice a week, or for 6 weeks in the year, during which time they only eat vegan food. Many local restaurants offer a Menu de Post, featuring vegan dishes like stuffed cabbage rolls, zacusca, rice cooked with corn, sauteed cabbage, mushrooms and more.
Kremzli: Thinly-cut potatoes shallow fried with egg, somewhat similar to a Swiss rosti.
Placenta de ciuperci cu verza: Bread stuffed with cabbage and mushroom, sold in small street-side bakeries.
Coronite cu nuca: Sweet bread coated with nuts.
Mamaliguta: Corn polenta with layers of cheese and cream; extremely heavy!
Cascaval Pane: Breaded cheese, deep fried.
Salads, soups and pizzas are easily available.
I loved Ciuc Radler, for its lemony, beery taste. Ciuc is a popular local beer, together with Ursus and Silva Black. If you dare, try the local plum brandy – Palinka; it contains 40-50% alcohol and is drunk neat! I thought I could pass out after a single sip.
WHERE TO EAT
BISRTO DEL ARTE in Brasov
On a quiet cobbled street in the old town of Brasov, Bistro Del Arte is a quintessential European cafe by day and a wine cellar by night, complete with live violin performances reminiscent of the Soviet era. They do an awesome veggie bruschetta, topped with fasule batuta and red peppers.
CAPA in Sibiu
A fifteen minute walk from the bustling old town of Sibiu, Capa is a popular neighborhood joint that serves up delicious mushroom dishes.
CASA IURCA & DAVID’S PUB in Sighet
Though a little touristy with live traditional music and dancing every night, Casa Iurca has the best local food we found in all of Romania, with plenty of veggie options. I loved their kremzli, fasule batuta and ciuperci paprika stew.
David’s Pub came a second close, especially for their extensive breakfast menu; try the egg and cheese burgers.
TOREGA in Bucharest
Tucked away in a local neighborhood on Eminescu Street, Torega is a typical local resto and marked the beginning of my love affair with vegetarian Romanian food. Their gustare vegetariana (vegetarian snacks) are a must try!
ANA PAN BAKERY in Otopeni
On our way out of the country, we ditched Bucharest to stay in the much quieter Otopeni (near the airport), and had an indulgent last meal of pizzas and de post goodies from the bakery at Ana Pan Bakery.
THINGS TO KNOW
- Familiarize yourself with the Romanian names of some vegetables to make it easier to order your food: Mushroom is ciuperci (pronounced chiu-per-chi), peppers are paprika, cheese is cascaval, tomato is rosii, cabbage is verza, red beans are fasule, green beans are fasule verde.
- In popular towns like Brasov and Sibiu, most people can communicate in enough English to understand you are vegetarian. In offbeat villages, ask for food that is de post (for fasting, so no meat, seafood, eggs or dairy).
- Portion sizes in Romania are HUGE by Indian standards, so you might want to share a dish or two among two people!
- A 10% tip is expected when no tipping / service charge is levied.
What food are you most looking forward to try in Romania?
Any contributions to my travel fund (in kind or otherwise) will be highly appreciated!