Tag Archive: food


I loved Romania. Romania has to be one of my favourite countries that I visited in Europe. I loved the gritty rawness of Bucherest. I love the fact that when you are in Bucharest you know you are in eastern Europe. It’s cheap, it’s grimy, it’s wild and the people appreciate enjoying life. Work hard, play hard. I loved the pristine beauty of Braşov. The dainty, clean old town surrounded by old soviet buildings and dodgy looking shops. I loved being back in mountains after the extreme flatness of the rest of Eastern Europe. When you grow up in the mountains you always appreciate the beauty of them and the mountain air that comes with small towns nestled in them. It’s refreshing. I loved the youth and awareness of Timişoara. A small university town near the Serbian border with a lazy Sunday feel (it was Sunday after all) but electricity in the air when a large group gathered to protest something political (not sure what, I don’t speak Romanian).

Braşov

My first stop after Bucharest was the small town of Braşov, popular with tourists nestled in a valley in the Carpathians. It’s a picturesque town that appears to have lost some of its originality and character at first glance thanks to having so many tourists. The old town is pristine and what can only be described as ‘cute’. It’s in sharp contrast with the rest of the city (which I decided to get lost walking around in, completely by accident). As soon as you left the main tourist areas but before you reached the outskirts where the wealthier families built nice houses you had dirty apartment buildings and small, dingy shops filled with mostly cheap crap. There’s a “Braşov” sign at the top of one of the surrounding mountains that is obviously copying the “Hollywood” sign. It’s all a bit gauche. Overlooking this though, Braşov is full of great little surprises you wouldn’t expect which make for some wonderful people watching.

Welcome to Brasov!

 

One of the first things you notice about walking through Braşov is that the locals are just not overweight at all. It is actually one of the most (if not the most) active town in Romania. Every park is filled with those exercise machines, there are a ton of sports fields and none of them are ever empty. I sat for a while at one of the track fields I passed and watched people training for sprints, field events and football while reminiscing about my high school days. They also have a massive church (in which I missed visiting hours) and a synagogue (also missed visiting hours) alongside a slew of Romanian Orthodox Christian churches which I read make for an interesting visit. I also walked past “Europe’s narrowest street”, which in my opinion is a pretty big call. I’ve been on some narrow streets, and while there is no doubt that it was the narrowest (barely wide enough for me to walk down without turning sideways) it was never technically a street. It was simply a narrow opening for the fire brigade to pass through in case of fire in that specific area. Should it be called a street? Your call.

Another thing that I loved, loved, loved about Braşov was the food. There’s a restaurant called “Restaurant Transylvania” that serves traditional rural Romanian food (which may or may not have contributed to my excessive weight gain) like, Ciorbă (a traditional Romanian sour soup that you can get in various flavours), Mămăligă (translated into ‘corn mush’ in Moldova and similar to Italian polenta) and tochitură ardelenească (the Transylvanian version of tochitură which is basically pan fried beef and pork). This restaurant (also a wine cellar or something) is so cheap I got a massive meal for all of about $6, including a local beer. You can get local wines and homemade wines for about $2 a litre as well if you really want to. Highly recommended. For afters, there is a crepe restaurant on the main pedestrian drag that does extremely delicious crepes that I at first thought were overpriced until I ordered on and received a crepe the size of my head.

Braşov is also a very popular area with hikers. I would have loved to go hiking while there but I had a limited amount of time and I had to be in Serbia by a certain date so I wasn’t able to. Just watch out for the bears. If you would like more information on hiking in the area, google it because I unfortunately don’t have that information.

The main reason for me going to Braşov? DRACULA’S CASTLE!!! While it is totally awesome saying that you have been to Dracula’s Castle I should probably make a few disclaimers. First of all, the castle isn’t terribly impressive in comparison to some that I have seen. It’s quite small, but it’s still quite nice looking and it’s surrounded by fairly impressive scenery. I also have no idea why it is called “Dracula’s Castle” as Dracula may possibly have visited it once for a night at some point during his life, but he also may not have. Regardless, I’ve been to Dracula’s Castle! It’s actually used as a museum for the families and royalty that did live there and I did enjoy the visit and spent a couple of hours there. There are a ton of little stalls selling extremely kitschy souvenirs, but there’s a bit more variety there than in the town of Braşov and the items are marginally cheaper. If you’re there, might as well pick some up. I’m wishing I had.

It’s amazing I haven’t been arrested yet.

Timişoara

Timisoara was pretty much just a stopover on the way to Serbia as it’s a border town and the trains between Braşov, Timişoara and Belgrade, Serbia don’t really match up very well. Even if they did, the train would probably be late anyway so you wouldn’t get into Timişoara in time to catch the train to Belgrade. I could have got in that night and then caught the 6am train to Belgrade, but in general, bus and train stations are about the dodgiest places you will see while travelling, especially in smaller towns and I didn’t fancy having my shoes stolen while I slept on a concrete floor and then miss my train anyway. So I did what any sensible girl would do when faced with such a dilemma. I booked a hostel for that night, asked to store my luggage and being as reception isn’t open 24 hours at the hostel in Timişoara, hung around in the common room until I had to leave at 4am to walk to the train station (super creepy at that hour). Wearing a backpack at that hour (for a 40 minute walk I might add) when the crazies tend to be out sort of screams “Come over and freak the crap out of my by talking to me, hitting on me or following me.” Lucky for me, the worst I got was a vendor at the station asking if I wanted to buy a sandwich.

Anyway, Timişoara was sending me mixed signals while I was there and it was deeply confusing. At first it appeared to be a sleepy Sunday town where most everything was closed and even most of the café’s didn’t stay open long enough to serve lunch, which made sense considering it was Sunday. I didn’t do a whole lot except visit a church, buy my train ticket for the next day and eat at a restaurant called Restaurant Flora that came highly recommended by lonely planet (also one of the only ones open) but ended up being overpriced and underwhelming. I was not impressed with the food at all or the price I had to pay for it. By Romanian standards it was pretty expensive. I spent a good few hours there regardless getting some work done and when I left I had to walk through the main square. Much to my surprise, Timişoara was no longer the sleepy little town. There were hundreds of people gathered in the square having some sort of political protest or rally. They were against something that was apparently happening in some sort of Romanian politics but I couldn’t tell what as the only word I could understand on the signs was ‘No’ and true to the pragmatist in me, I decided to avoid the rally just in case anything happened and my insurance didn’t cover it. I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised considering Timişoara is a university town, but it was quite a 180 flip from what I had seen the entire rest of the day.

What I’m reading now: Nothing My Darling Nothing by H. Manice

What I’m listening to now: Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Photos from Romania can be seen here.

Advertisements

This is a very good and filling dish and tastes AMAZING with salo. You can also fill it with meat for a non-vegetarian option or fresh cherries or blueberries for a sweeter option. I found this recipe at http://www.funrussian.com.

Dough
3 cups of flour
1-2 eggs
½ cup of water
½ tsp of salt

Potato Stuffing
6 medium potatoes
3.5 ounces of butter
2 large onions
Oil for sauteing
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Mix flour with salt and make a well in flour. Add eggs and water, and mix well. Knead dough for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and leave it to rest for 15 to 30 min.
2. In the meantime, peel potato, cut it into big cubes and boil in salted water until ready.
3. Peel and chop onions and saute them in sunflower, corn or vegetable oil until golden.
4. When potatoes are cooked, pour out water, add 1.5 oz of butter and mash them well. Add a half portion of sauteed onions to the potatoes mixture, add black pepper to taste and mix well.
5. Cut 1/3 of  the dough, roll it into a log, and then cut it into small pieces (1 inch wide). Using a rolling pin, roll dough pieces into thin round circles. Keep the rest of the dough in a plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
6. Place 1 teaspoon of potato filling into each circle and seal them by folding in half and pinching the edges.
7. Place vareniki into salted boiling water and boil for approximately 2-3 minutes after they come to the surface. Make sure to stir vareniki to prevent them from sticking together or sticking to the pan.
8. Take vareniki out with a perforated spoon, place them in the bowl, and add the rest of the butter and sautéed onion mixture.
9. You can also serve vareniki with melted butter or sour cream, or both, just like pelmeni.

You may have remembered my ranting and raving (in a good way) about the most amazing soup to ever grace the face of planet earth in my post about Odesa. Well, here is a recipe for it. It was fairly difficult to find a decent recipe for it online as I assume I would have to search in Russian to find the best, most authentic recipes, but until I learn to read in Russian this one will have to do. Make it, love it, feed it to me whenever I come to visit.
*Personally, I don’t bother with the cheeseclothe sachet in the recipe and just chuck them in, but that’s because I’m lazy. Do whichever floats your boat.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings Solyanka Soup

Ingredients:

  • Sachet:
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 4 allspice berries
  • Soup:
  • 10 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons beef base
  • 1/2 head shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 medium chopped onions
  • 2 peeled and chopped carrots
  • 1 pound Polish kabanosy sausage, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 cup cubed ham
  • 3 large chopped dill pickles
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Preparation:

  1. Make a cheesecloth sachet with bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice and tie onto handle of large pot. Add water and beef base and bring to a boil. Add shredded cabbage and sliced celery, return to the boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
  2. Put oil into large skillet and heat. Add onion and carrots, and saute until translucent. Add sausage, chicken, ham, pickles and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Transfer to soup pot.
  3. Add capers, olives, stewed tomatoes, and bring barely to a boil. Add the wine and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the sachet and discard. Adjust seasonings. Ladle soup into hot bowls and garnish with sour cream and dill or pass them at table. Serve with multigrain bread.