Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moldavian and Bucovinian Cuisine

This region lies in the north-eastern part of Romania and historically speaking it suffered few foreign influences from people who came to conquer these lands or to trade with natives. They managed to influence more or less the local culture. The Byzantine Empire and later on Greeks left some culinary marks in Moldavia – a large variety of sweets, some spicy dressing with various flavours or the Mediterranean habit of using dry wine to cook some dishes.

Turks (when the region came under their influence between the 16th and the very beginning of the 19th century) left one of the most powerful imprints on the local cuisine: the use of mutton on a large scale and dishes like musaca or hotchpotch (ghiveci). We should not forget the Russians: they left us something too - pickled vegetables and a lot of baked dishes and baked cakes. Nowadays the Moldavian cuisine is considered as being one of the most subtle of our country. Because of some Mediterranean influences (from Greeks) it is much lighter than for instance the Transylvanian one and it is also very tasty.
People in this part of the country eat a lot of soups; chicken soup is at high esteem among these (like it is the use of white meat – chicken and fish) and borsch (a homemade fermentation liquid obtained from bran and water) is largely used to get a slightly sour taste to soups. “Ciorba de potroace” (a kind of sour soup) is also particular in this area. It is made of chicken giblets boiled together with carrots, onion, rice, parsley and it is seasoned with borsch – people say this soup makes an excellent medicine for hangovers.
The traditional “sarmale” are to be found all over the regions but they have something specific every part of the country. They are very small in Moldavia as one can easily obtain 8 to 10 sarmale from one single leaf of cabbage and the meat used to fill the “sarmale” is usually a mixture of pork and beef. Some Moldavians would also use vine leaves apart from sauerkraut to prepare their sarmale. Bean soup, stewed cabbage or “iahnie” (particular dish made of dried beans) are among the favorite meals of these people.
We should mention Moldavian “tochitura” too (chopped pork meat – liver and kidneys – mixed with lard, garlic, pepper and of course a glass of wine; everything is fried and simmered) which is always served with polenta.
Pies are traditional as desserts and they have extremely diverse shapes and tastes. Some of the best known pies are filled with cheese (cheese, especially mutton cheese is very much used in the Moldavian cuisine), sauerkraut, pumpkin, apples or comfiture. Donughts, dumplings, some kind of panettone, mucenici, pasca and pancakes enrich the list of local sweets which is anyway very large. Another local figure are walnuts – these fruits are used for a lot of cookies in Moldavia.

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