More than often the tour and travel pages
on the Internet would read: "The most delicious food
you have ever tasted." We won't tell you this because
you expect to hear it and the food here is only but one thing,
which will impress you about this land.
However, Bulgaria is a country of traditions and there are
three very special food items, which are unique to Bulgaria
and have always been a part of it, back through the earliest
of Thracian times:
The abundance of various kinds of mineral water may
be seen as one other important factor to the healthy nature
of the Bulgarian people. Most notable are the spring water
sources from the region quite close to Plovdiv - in the towns
of Hissar and Bratsigovo. In Hissar, the total outflow of
the springs exceeds 4500 litre per minute. The water is very
low in dissolved solids, about 230 mg per litre, with a temperature
ranging from 37° to 51°C. People travel to Hissar
to take a supply of water from a specially erected fountain.
This water is used primarily for treatment of predominantly
gastro-intestinal disorders. There are many other similar
springs throughout Bulgaria and a large portion of their water
is bottled commercially and consumed in homes and restaurants
as a quite popular type of table water.
And then there is the popular "boza" - this
is a thick fermented sweet beverage (having a sweet-sour taste)
prepared from roasted flour, which gives it a brownish colour
(it almost has the appearance of the chocolate drink “YooHoo”).
As the beverage is fermented, it has a slight (4% or less)
alcohol content. Millet-flour boza is preferred, but it may
be made from wheat, barley, oat or corn flour.
As to methods of preparation - since earliest of times
the Bulgarians have favoured stewing, roasting, boiling and
the cooked-in-the-earthen-pot dish. The roasting of food on
charcoal embers is also widespread, leaving the meat deliciously
tender and succulent. Often many of the stews and casseroles
are delivered to the table in a lidded brown crock called
a “gyuvech”. If many of the dishes you find here
seem Turkish to you - that is very much so! Bulgaria was occupied
by the Ottomans for five centuries. When the Turks retreated,
both parties exchanged borrowed ways and traditions.
You will probably want us to sample the rich variety of local
meat, vegetables, fruit and variety of bread found in a well-prepared
and colourful, interesting dishes… Here is just an attempt
to sample some most characteristic Bulgarian menu: a Bulgarian
breakfast might start with some of the so-typical yoghurt,
with a delicious strudel-like pastry made with spinach or
feta cheese filling (called “banitza”). For lunch
or dinner, a mixed tomato-cucumber-pepper-and-onion salad
with grated sheep-milk cheese on top (the "shopska salata")
followed by a tasty stew of pork meat with paprikas (the "slav
gyuvech") or just a vegetable stew (the "gyuvech
zarzavat"), stuffed peppers or aubergines, stuffed vine
leaves' called “sarmi”. Beware of the heavenly
sweet syrupy pastries filled with walnuts called "baklava"!“
Kebapche” (the minced-meat-and-spices long roll) is
just the local favourite! When in round form, it's called
“Kyufte”, but it's very much the same (although
the latter could include some yellow cheese inside it as well).
The meat is pork, chicken or veal, sometimes a mixture of
chicken and the other, mixed with very finely minced onion,
water, cumin, salt and pepper. When already barbequed, the
kebapche or the kyufte is usually served with fried potatoes
("French fries") and a beer (called "bira"
here) or a soft drink.
There is little difference in the contents of the Bulgarian
cook's larder from your own; common meats are pork,
veal, lamb, chicken and fish. Staples include rice,
corn, beans and lentils. Vegetables include potatoes,
cabbage (both green and red), carrots, tomatoes, green peppers,
eggplant, cucumbers, garlic, zucchini, pumpkin, onions (yellow
and green), peas, celery, spinach, cauliflower, green and
lima beans, lettuce, radishes, turnips, mushrooms, olives
; fruits - cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries,
blackberries, apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, watermelons,
melons, grapes and quinces. All of these basic ingredients
are grown in Bulgaria.
Cooking oil is almost always sunflower oil. It is
light enough that it blends easily with foods while cooking
and does not impart a greasy taste.
Bread may be lightly brushed with sunflower oil and
toasted in a hot pan to a delicious golden colour. Bread is
the most important item of the Bulgarian diet. The crisp,
thin outer crust is cracked in places on top and nearly glistens;
inside is of a coarse yet soft, white texture. Of course,
many other styles and types of bread are to be found - including
whole-wheat and pre-sliced.