Bulgarian cuisine is diverse and delicious, consisting of various local dishes, salads, breadstuffs, stews and other. She is one of the tastiest cuisines in Europe. Bulgarian home cooking is very seasonal and although nowadays you can enjoy most dishes all year round they are still at their best when the ingredients are fresh and in season and naturally grown. Many of the dishes are prepared according to traditional recipes. Products for which Bulgaria is internationally known are yogurt and white brine (feta) cheese. These are almost always present on Bulgarian tables in one form or another.
Let’s start exploring Bulgarian cuisine…
Which are locally produced foods:
Dairy products: plain yogourt, fresh milk and cheese, cows’ milk, goat and buffalo milk; Bulgarian white brined cheese (sirene) and yellow semi-matured cheese (kashkaval).
Meat: lamb, pork, beef, ostrich, chicken, fish
Vegetables: cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, aubergines, garlic, courgettes, pumpkins, spinach, cauliflower, lima beans, lettuce, radishes, mushrooms…
Fruits: cherries, apples, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, pears, plums, watermelons, apricots
Herbs: thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage, bay leaf, coriander
Nuts: walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts
Bulgarians always start the meal with a salad, usually accompanied by a glass of rakia (local spirit made of grapes or plums and has an ABV – alcohol by volume of 40%) or maybe in the summer months a mastika (an aniseed based spirit similar to the Greek ouzo). Bulgarian cuisine offers slowly prepared dishes with generous use of flavor-packed vegetables and herbs. For historical reasons, the traditional Bulgarian cuisine is heavily influenced by Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Bulgarian salads: Shopska salad, Snezhanka or mlechna salata, Kyopoulu, Turshia
Bulgarian starters: Chushki byurek, Sirene po shopski, Podlucheni tikvichki
Bulgarians do not have a strong beef-eating culture so most main course dishes are chicken or pork-based. Fresh lamb continues to be seasonal. A particular favourite is the Easter Lamb or St. George’s Day lamb which is a whole roast lamb stuffed with rice and its own innards. Grilled meats are also very popular and are usually served with French fries. Dried salamis such as lukanka, and pasturma are often served sliced on plates together with other ‘nibbles’ such as nuts and olives as accompaniment to drinks.
Bulgarian main dishes: Gyuvech, Kavarma, Moussaka, Nervosni kyufteta, Kebapcheta,
Shish, Guyvetche, Pasturva (trout)
Bulgarian snacks: Banitsa, Mekitsi, Gevrek,
Tutmanik, Kiselo mlyako
Bulgarian Wine tradition
Wine traditions in Bulgaria date back in time. The mild climate and fertile soil have enabled production of many types of wine. Since ancient times, Thracians used the drink in their rituals.
Local Bulgarian cellars have gained international awards. Some grapes types used in the production are specifically Bulgarian. Bulgarians generally like wine and almost all traditional celebrations include a glass of wine, especially during the winter. There are five regions into which the country's winelands can be roughly divided, although only two or three of these have been officially recognized by the EU as designated origins of wine - The Danube Plain, Black Sea regions, Thracian Lowlands, Rose Valley and Struma Valley. Here are some traditional grape varieties – Kadarka (Gamza), Mavrud and Melnik.