Have you discovered the delicious world of Bulgarian food? If not, your taste buds are seriously missing out. With creamy white cheeses, crispy fried foods and entrées baked in clay pots, this cozy food will have you dreaming of forested hills and meadows of sheep in no time.
A traditional pie made of white cheese and whisked eggs layered in phyllo dough, Banitsa is a favourite dish throughout Bulgaria. The filling is usually soft sirene cheese and yoghurt, and the dough curves around itself like a spiral. Drizzled with honey, it makes for an indulgent breakfast.
Mekitsa flatbread is kneaded with yoghurt and deep fried, and typically served hot with jam, fruits, honey, yoghurt, or powdered sugar. Sometimes dubbed “Bulgarian donuts,” serve with strong coffee for a satiating breakfast.
Gevrek is a Balkan pastry akin to the bagel, known in other countries as simit or Turkish bagel. Crusted in sesame seeds, these crunchy breads are sweet or savoury and found in practically every bakery you’ll come across.
Don’t leave any Bulgarian table without ordering Shopska Salad. Though a deceivingly simple mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers, the shopska explodes with flavor when topped with soft white Bulgarian sirene cheese.
This cold cucumber soup is a staple on every Bulgarian menu. Prepared with yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic, walnuts, dill, oil and water, nothing beats tarator on a hot summer day in Veliko Tarnovo. In some restaurants, look out for “Snow white salad,” or a dry version of tarator without water.
Kebapche and Kyufte
Kebapche is a Bulgarian variation of the hot dog and makes for a light lunch when served with salad. Blended pork and beef are shaped into a cylinder and then roasted on a grill. Shape the minced meat into a ball, add a dash of cumin, and you get kyufte instead.
Bulgarian Sarmi, known in Greece as Dolmades, are grape leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat and then boiled. Raisins are an occasional pop of flavor added into the mix. Sometimes cabbage leaves are substituted or the meat left out. Either way, don’t forget to dip the rolls into creamy Bulgarian yogurt for a match made in heaven.
Bulgarian Tripe Soup is a hearty soup prepared with the lining of cow stomach. Folk legends say it may just be the ticket to banishing your next hangover from rakia (traditional Bulgarian liquor). It’s best served with a hearty country-style bread and washed down with a beer.
Rescue your leftover meat cuts and turn it into Bulgarian mixed grill. This classic dish combines different minced meats, sausages, kebapche and meat patties. Make sure you eat it with ljutenica, a favourite condiment of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onion and garlic.
Bring out your clay pots for this one. This delicious dish is prepared with diced sausage, topped with veggies, cheese and egg–then sealed and baked in a traditional earthenware bowl. What’s more, it’s easily converted into a vegetarian or vegan dish for any creative chef.
Bulgarians do love their meat. A popular traditional snack is pastărma, aka basturma, cured beef heavily seasoned and air-dried.
Bulgarian yogurt is reputed to be one of the oldest recipes, dating back to 3000 bce. There’s no denying that there’s something special about creamy, delicious Bulgarian yogurt–and we bet it has something to do with its culture, Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Eat it plain or serve with honey, walnuts or jam.
While similar to its Middle Eastern counterparts, baklava is also a staple in Bulgarian bakeries. Phyllo layers are alternated with walnuts, sugar, lemon juice and butter for a flaky treat served with strong Bulgarian coffee.
This sweet, leavened bread is an airy, pillow-soft dessert served during Easter. Bakers often add lemon zest, rum-soaked raisins or walnuts for bursts of flavor. As it requires hours of preparation and kneading effort, best to trust your Sofia bakery with this one.
📷: Boris Tassev
Yoghurt and dough make a comeback with buhti, another Bulgarian donut. Definitely to be eaten in moderation, buhti is a combination of flour, eggs, sugar, yoghurt and sirene cheese and fried up into delicious puffy bites.