Bulgarian cuisine
Bulgarian National Cuisine

The Bulgarian National Cuisine is rich and diverse just like the history of that country bringing together the culinary skills of many people that crossed its lands Greek, Thracians, Romans, proto-Bulgarians, Slavs, Turks, etc.

From time immemorial bread has been held especially high among Bulgarians and has always been part of their meals. Sometimes in not so distant past bread was the main nutritional source for many people. There are numerous proverbs and wise sayings, to show us how important the bread was for Bulgarians: If there is bread, there is everything, No one is bigger than bread", etc. Today in Bulgaria a wide variety of breads and pastry are prepared, every one typical for certain region but one of them - banitsa is prepared in every household and is popular all over the country. Making banitsa needs a great skill to roll out pastry and then to join the sheets of pastry with filling between them. Usually filling is made out of cheese, whipped eggs and yoghurt. But sometimes banitsa is also prepared with vegetable filling (spinach, leeks), minced meat filling or fruit filling (apples, pumpkin). That passion for pastry surely comes from the part of Slavonic blood that runs through our veins it is said.

From the proto-Bulgarians, who mainly earned their living by stock-breeding, comes the strong presence of meat in the traditional Bulgarian cuisine. Nowadays Bulgarians cook mainly pork, lamb, chicken, veal and beef. Technology of cooking is simple and healthy slow roasting on a spit, on plate, on a tile, in earthen pot, boiled or stewed.

Undoubtedly the most popular foods are cheese and yoghurt. Legend says it that their origin is Thracian and is linked to the ancient inhabitants of the Bulgarian lands and the most popular livestock they used to breed - the sheep. Today, dairy products are mostly made of sheep or cow's milk, but in Bulgaria you can also try buffalo milk with its proven healing properties, as well as goat-milk cheese. Bulgaria is also the only place in Europe, where you can enjoy the real yoghurt, whose great refreshing taste is due to the lactic ferment, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, existing only in Bulgaria. Scientists have proven that a key factor for the longer lifespan of the nation is the regular consumption of yoghurt. Definitely, all Bulgarians eat a lot of yoghurt, everyday and in different forms. In Bulgarian restaurants you will see many people accompanying their meal with a white drink which looks like milk. This is actually the so-called ayrian a drink very easy to make (and quite refreshing too) - equal parts yoghurt and water stirred briskly to mix well. Another popular treat prepared with yoghurt is the typical Bulgarian cold soup tarator, which is made of yoghurt, water, chopped cucumber, dill and garlic. Yogurt can be served even at the end of a meal instead of dessert, like strained yoghurt with honey and nuts or strained yoghurt with fig jam. Those foods are a real elixir for health and longevity, especially in the hot summer days.

Bulgarians are very fond of vegetables, too. Grown under the bright Bulgarian sun, vegetables provide not only many vitamins and minerals, but they also offer great variety of flavours. Commonly you will be offered Shopska salad; this salad undoubtedly is a great contribution of Bulgaria in culinary world - it is made of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, parsley and grated feta cheese. There are many other vegetable specialties, which is worth trying, like kyopoolu (made of baked eggplant and pepper mashed into puree and flavoured with garlic, cooking oil and vinegar) or lyutenitsa (tomato and paprika spread) or chushka byurek (baked pepper stuffed with feta cheese and eggs filling) or turshia, which is offered in winter only and is made of pickled vegetables (peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, gherkins)...

There is also a special place reserved in the Bulgarian cuisine for the many aromatic spices and herbs which grow in abundance here - savory, thyme, mint, hogweed, laurel-leaves, basil, rosemary and many more. They are much valued in the whole orthodox world and Bulgarians even have a special feast dedicated to herbs and their healing properties - Enyovden (Midsummer Day).

The five-century domination of the Ottoman Empire also left a profound imprint on the Bulgarian cuisine the use of more piquant spices, onion and garlic, the introduction of the oriental techniques of cooking and the wide use of fresh and tinned vegetables. Many Balkan dishes for example mousaka, gyuvech, kebap, sarmi, syrupy desserts such as baklava, kadaif, etc. actually come from the Turkish cuisine.

The greater part of the traditional dishes refers to various rituals, myths and beliefs of the folklore and the Church calendar of the Bulgarians. Wine is the sacred drink. Yet from the ancient times our lands are famous with winemaking. Thracians were among the best and most famous winemakers at that time and the Bulgarians have continued the tradition. The Bulgarian wine, although far from the fame of the French and Italian wine, is worth tasting. Today in Bulgaria we grow not only the most popular types of grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Traminer, Muscat Otonel, Riesling, but also some rare varieties, specific only for the Balkan region, such as Gumza, Dimiat and Pamid. A unique variety is Mavrud, which is grown only in Bulgaria since the ancient times - the wine made of Mavrud is ruby red, thick and full-bodied and its qualities are recognized worldwide. Other unique varieties, grown on few areas and therefore very valuable are keratsuda and shiroka melnishka loza. Another spirit drink traditional for many Balkan nations is rakia (brandy). This is a strong alcoholic beverage (about 40% or more alcohol by volume), which is made through distillation of fermented fruits. The most popular types in Bulgaria are grape brandy, plum brandy and apricot brandy. Bulgarians usually drink brandy with salad when they start a meal and accompany their main course with wine.

Healthy, tasty and easy to prepare the Bulgarian national cuisine will sharpen your appetite and turn you admirer for life. By combining the culinary traditions of many nations, it will present to you a colorful tale about the history and the folklore of the Balkans.