If you happen to visit Bulgaria and want to dive into the experience, you simply must try some of the country’s most iconic dishes. If you don’t know what those are, let me show you.
Bulgarian cuisine is generally quite similar to other Balkan cuisines. The close proximity of the people in the region and its history made the tradition in food preparation similar. However, each of the Balkan countries has their own specialties, and in that Bulgaria is not lacking.
A classic breakfast combination is banitsa and boza (баница и боза) or banitsa and ayran (баница и айраян). Banitsa is a traditionally made filo pastry pie. In the most popular version it is filled with white pickled cheese or a combination of cheese, eggs and yogurt. In other variations the banitsa can contain leeks, onions, cabbage, minced meat, pumpkin and sugar or apples with cinnamon. It can be easily be purchased from any street bakery, during the whole day.
The cheesy banitsa fits very well the sweet thick boza drink. Boza is made of rye or wheat and goes into slight fermentation process. If the boza has slight alcoholic taste, it is not fresh and you should not drink it. The alternative to boza – ayran, is basically a deluded with water Bulgarian yogurt. Salt and even pepper can be added to the drink.
Other breakfast options are tutmanik (тутманик) and milinka (милинка). Both are breakfast breads with cheese and eggs but each has a typical taste and different preparation method. Mekitsa (мекица) is a bulgarian sort of donut, usually consumed for breakfast too. It can be eaten both with sweet and savoury additions such as white cheese, confectioner’s sugar or jam.
Shopska salad (шопска салата) is probably one of Bulgaria’s most iconic dishes. It is also a favourite among foreigners. The salad is made of tomato, cucumber and onion. What makes it special, however, is the topping of Bulgarian white pickled cheese (сирене). The symphony of the ingredients and the simple oil and vinegar dressing makes this salad outstanding. You can order Shopska salad in any restaurant (it is that popular) and you best try it as a starter, with Rakiya.
Rakiya (ракия) is Bulgaria’s traditional alcohol beverage. It is usually made of grapes, but it can also be produced from plums, apricots, peaches, apples, pears or cherries. The alcohol content is 40-60%. A lot of Bulgarians produce their own homemade rakiya. But don’t limit your alcohol consumption to rakiya. Try some Bulgarian wine too. The country has a long tradition in wine making. If you are more of a beer person, get a Zagorka, Shumensko or Kamenitsa.
The humble bean soup (боб чорба) is a Bulgarian staple. It is an excellent vegetarian dish, but it can also be spiced up with some sausages. The shkembe chorba (шкамбе чорба) soup is a classic dish for those after-a-party days. It is considered to be a hangover remedy. Shkembe chorba is made of lamb, beef or pork tripe, with added milk, paprika and butter. It is served with minced garlic in vinegar. Not a good dish if you have a business meeting or a date later that day.
For a main dish, Bulgarian moussaka (мусака) is a must-try. It is a casserole with potatoes and minced meat and a pouring of egg and yogurt based sauce. It is served with a spoonful of Bulgarian plain yogurt (кисело мляко).
Stuffed peppers (пълнени чушки) are a good alternative. They can be both vegetarian, stuffed with rice and sometimes walnuts, or stuffed with minced meat and rice. There is a variant, in which peppers are stuffed with white cheese, covered with egg and flour and fried, called pepper biurek (чушки бюрек).
Wine kebab (винен кебап) is a popular dish you can easily find in Bulgarian restaurants. It is made of pork lamb or beef chunks, cooked in wine sauce and served with plain white rice.
For a dessert, try some baklava (баклава) or Garash cake (гараш торта). Baklava, originally Turkish dessert, is prepared in Bulgaria using walnuts and thin filo pastry, soaked in sugar sirup. The Garash cake is basically a thin layered chocolate cake, but it has a typical taste due to the crushed walnuts used in the cake’s layers.
Those are only some of the typical Bulgarian dishes but I hope you can get a general idea of the typical dishes. So, from what was said so far, do you think you would like the Bulgarian cuisine?