1.Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls)

This is a real comfort food that you can find at every traditional Romanian wedding, or that you can smell on the street during Christmas and New Year holidays. It is made of minced meat (usually pork or in combination with poultry) mixed with spices, rice, and onions, then rolled up in sour (fermented) cabbage leaves, and boiled for hours in a special sauce made of sauerkraut juice, tomato juice, and other secret ingredients.

In some Romanian regions they use vine leaves instead of cabbage. For fasting or for a vegan choice, the minced meat can be very successfully replaced with a mixture of ground nuts, grated carrots, and chopped mushrooms. Sărmăluțe, as you can find them on restaurant menus, are served with sour cream and hot mămăligă, which brings us to the next staple food.

2.Mamaliga (Polena)

Usually a side dish for sarmale or served plain with sour cream and Romanian cheese, mămăligă is made from corn flour boiled in water with a pinch of salt and a few drops of sunflower oil. It’s very healthy and also pairs well with gravies or stews. Shepherds like to mix it up with salty sheep cheese and make a specialty called “bulz”.

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