Romania is little known for its vegan cuisine. In fact, most of the Romanians enjoy their meat more than anything else. Well, maybe some would still go for the palică or tuică – a traditional fruit brandy that can reach up to 65% alcohol by volume – used as a digestive, first and who can blame them? Still 100% vegan and organic, mostly homemade. Thumbs up!
Going back to the traditional cuisine, Romanian dishes are usually rich in fats and spices which makes them incredibly tasty. Surprisingly, despite the fact that Romanians strongly believe that “pork is the best vegetable”, when it comes to religion, Romanian Orthodox practitioners may fast up to 192 days out of the entire year, considering every Wednesday and Friday through the year, the Advent season fast before Christmas, the 40 days lent before Easter and a few more shorter fasting sessions over the rest of the year.
Therefore, don’t feel discouraged from visiting traditional restaurants, as they usually serve a variety of vegan dishes too, under the heading “de post” (for Lent/ fast). So keep those words in mind.
A very handy source of inspiration for vegans / and practicing Christians fasting before religious holidays is the “Monastery cuisine”- Mâncăruri mănăstireşti – with a major focus on vegetable stews and sour soups. Traditionally, monks and nuns grow their own food on the monastery grounds, to the extent where they sometimes become almost self-sufficient communities. You can’t get food that’s more seasonal and locally sourced than that! And to be honest, there’s something about the food made in those big old pots which bring out delicious flavors and most interesting topics at the table you’d be sharing with quite a few fellows monks, nuns and tourists as well. It could just as well be the wisdom of an old saying: ‘Good food tastes better when it’s shared’.
With so many days of fast, Romanians have worked out a range of traditional vegan recipes.
However, over time they did borrow and adapted international vegan recipes to their very own taste and now there is a wide variety of vegan dishes you could choose from.
The most common starters would be the “zacuscă”, a vegetable stew in which eggplant is the star, “salata de vinete” – eggplant salad, or “fasole bătută”- mashed white beans with a tomato and onion sauce. Should you be visiting a Romanian’s friend home, don’t be surprised to be served “ciorbă de legume” (vegetable soup), which will delight your taste buds and stomach, particularly if you’re visiting Romania during the cold season. In spring you might be offered sour salad soup, which, depending on the weather outside, might be served cold if it’s a very hot day or warm if the spring goes gentle on you. Another option for starters might be “salată orientală” (Oriental Salad) containing boiled potatoes, onions, black olives, and a lemon juice and olive oil-based dressing. Simple, easy and yummy. What more can you ask for?
For the main course, you‘ll find more elaborate dishes like stew rice with vegetables, just as delicious and filling, called “pilaf de orez”. Note that spring is probably the best season to enjoy authentic vegan dishes in Romania. Usually in March, April you may try a wide variety of refreshing spring greens like nettle, spinach, ramson (bear’s garlic), sorrel, stevia and celandine which make such incredible tasty stews. This time of the year, the farmer’s markets explode with color. Locals gladly go for greens and vegetables massively to replenish their vitamin supplies after the long winter. When it comes to home cooking, they can get very creative building up a wide variety of dishes out of just a few (sometimes only one) basic ingredient. Let’s take for instance a more common greens, like spinach and see what we can do with it. Well, it could be used as the base for delicious spinach soup or prepared as a stew for main and just as well, can be served in a tasty spinach and tofu tart. Another option is to have it as a very light spinach salad or even added up to one of those delicious smoothies and your iron level will boost in no time.
When it comes to desserts, there are quite a few options to choose from, starting with homemade fruit compote and confiture, to the more elaborate ‘biscuit salami’ and different types of cakes. If you want to try street food desserts, there are various fruit pies, strudels or tarts with apple, sour cherries or wild fruits, fruit compotes (pre-boiled jar-served) or the simple all-time-classic pancakes with jams. They’re easy to find too, even in street pastry shops. If you are more into restaurants, surely fancy raw chocolate tarts or cheesecakes will delight your taste buds.
The very good news is that more and more hip, vegan-friendly restaurants, like Dianei 4, Simbio, Energiea, Paine si vin, Aubergine to name just a few in Bucharest, have started to offer fusion food. We will look into recommending a few of our personal favorite places in Bucharest where you can enjoy decent vegan food, in our future blog posts. Until then, stay tuned and remember you needn’t worry about vegan & vegetarian food options as a traveler visiting Romania. There are plenty of options to choose from. You just have to say the magic word “de post” (for fast/ lent) and be ready to explore. Poftă bună! (Enjoy!)
You may also find food-related useful tips in this article: ‘Accommodating the tastes of many – food trends in Bucharest‘.