Nestled in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is a treasure trove of culinary delights, offering a rich blend of Slavic, Ottoman, Greek, and Persian influences. Here are some key tips to help you navigate the mouthwatering world of Bulgarian cuisine.
1. Start Your Day the Bulgarian Way
Begin your morning with a traditional Bulgarian breakfast of banitsa, a flaky cheese-filled pastry, coupled with a glass of cold ayran, a refreshing yogurt-based drink.
2. Indulge in Bulgarian Dairy
Bulgarian dairy products are highly esteemed, particularly yogurt, known locally as ‘kiselo mlyako.’ Rich in probiotics, it’s used in a variety of dishes, including the cold soup ‘tarator.’ Don’t forget to try ‘sirene,’ a white brine cheese similar to feta.
3. Relish the National Dish: Shopska Salata
Shopska Salata, a salad made of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and sirene cheese, is a staple starter at Bulgarian tables. The vibrant colors of the ingredients represent the Bulgarian national flag.
4. Enjoy Hearty Bulgarian Mains
Sample ‘kavarma,’ a slow-cooked stew with meat and vegetables, or ‘moussaka,’ a comforting casserole made with potatoes, pork, and a creamy topping. For a true taste of the Bulgarian countryside, try ‘kapama,’ a special-occasion slow-cooked casserole with various meats and sausages, cabbage or sauerkraut, and rice.
5. Explore the Street Food Scene
From ‘gevrek’ (similar to a bagel) to ‘princess donuts,’ Bulgarian street food offers a range of tasty snacks. ‘Kebapche’ and ‘pljeskavica,’ grilled meat dishes, are also common street food options, often served with a side of ‘lyutenitsa,’ a relish made from peppers, tomatoes, and aubergines.
6. Savour Traditional Bulgarian Desserts
The Bulgarian sweet tooth is catered to with delights like ‘baklava’ and ‘tikvenik’ (a pumpkin pastry). Also, try ‘garash’ cake, a walnut-based dessert layered with chocolate cream.
7. Quench Your Thirst
Bulgaria has a thriving wine industry, with indigenous grapes like ‘mavrud’ and ‘rubin.’ The country is also known for its fruit brandies, known as ‘rakia.’ But remember, these are typically high in alcohol!
8. Visit Local Fresh Markets
Local fresh markets, like Sofia’s ‘Jenski Pazar,’ offer an array of fresh produce, cheeses, spices, and pickled vegetables. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the daily life of Bulgarians and their food culture.
9. Attend Food Festivals
Bulgaria hosts numerous food festivals throughout the year, dedicated to products like cherries, rose oil, yogurt, and rakia. These festivals offer a great opportunity to explore regional food specialities.
10. Learn From the Locals
Bulgarians are proud of their food heritage and usually happy to share their knowledge. Engage in conversation, ask for recommendations, or even take a cooking class.
Bulgaria offers a fascinating gastronomic journey through the Balkans, promising hearty meals, unique dairy products, excellent wines, and sweet pastries. So, let your palate guide you and enjoy the culinary wonders that Bulgaria has to offer.