The country of Moldova is a strange, yet endearing, country. Something like a crazy uncle who is mildly offensive but strangely wise in between swigs of whiskey. And like that, Moldovan cuisine is curiously deep and varied, an unexpected twist given its hilly, elevated geography. After a few days in Europe’s poorest country you’ll quickly witness that Moldavans drink more alcohol than anyone else on the planet. Despite this liquid indulgence however, they still have plenty of room in their stomachs for their common foods: a Romanian-Germanic mix with an Italian accent, appropriately random, something Moldova does consistently well.
Starting With A Few Sides Of Veggies
The typical organizational structure of a table sitting beneath Moldovan dishes is meat in the center, with a small battalion of vegetable-based sides at the ready. Common in eastern Europe is Moldova’s take on Bulgaria’s shopska salad (or Turkey’s çoban salatası), called ‘kanape’. This Moldovan salad has a base of lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers, along with sweet yellow peppers, olives, parsly and moist feta cheese.
There are also other creative variations of this basic salad, mostly at fancier restaurants, which include tuna salad, chicken, mushrooms, peppers, and potatoes. The latter ingredient being one that’s often used as the supporting base of many salads in Moldova.
Rounding Out The Army Of Fiber
In addition to the assortments of salads, you can have eggplant puree (“icre de vinete”), one of my favorite Moldovan dishes. Eaten cold and best spread on bread, it’s got a strong tomato flavor with some garlic and a hint of lemon.
The hot salad, “ghiveci”, takes eggplant to the next level in Moldova. Sitting in a sauce of tomatoes, the eggplant, potatoes, green beans, and onions are mixed in with red peppers that give a welcomed spicy flavor; helping to keep your eating at a good pace. (If you eat every meal like a starved wolverine as I do.)
Moving On To Soups
There are a number of soups in Moldova, several of which worked to warm my shivering muscles covered under clothing that would be inadequate for winter in Thailand. The soup shown left, called ‘solianka’, is really a Russian dish that keeps your cozy by providing enough fat for your body to grow an extra layer of blubber or two. (I’d be surprised if there were any less than a stick of butter in each bowl.) There’s also a generous portion of beef swimming in the tomato-based broth.
In the picture above right is a twist on the very typical chicken zeama soup. Noodles and potatoes sit patiently in broth waiting for you to add a large tablespoon of sour cream to mix in. It might be strange for your ears to hear, slightly more so than it was for my eyes to see, but my taste buds had absolutely no objections.
Meet Moldovan Meat
Let’s start with sarma, cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around minced pork in tomato puree. For added flavor to go with each juicy bite however, make sure you give each sarma a good dip in sour cream, usually served alongside the plate. If you prefer your meat naked, you can try one of the many versions of sausage Moldovan butchers produce from beef, chicken, and pork, like “cîrnăţei”. Mixed meats are the most popular variety with potatoes and onions never too far away.
Only The Beginning Of What Goes With Your Wine
Moldovan foods are functionally filling without losing their spicy soul – a condition many northern European countries seems to suffer from. You can settle for broiled chickens with potatoes on the nights you need some caloric comfort or go for Italian fast-food at a place like Pizza Celentano. To get a good palate of what Moldovan cooks have been inventing over the centuries – without spending much money – I’d recommend stopping by one of La Placinte‘s two locations in Chisinau once or thrice as you can see I did. Though obviously it’s not complete in Moldova without some wine or beer, the locals drink 4.67 and 4.57 liters respectively of both annually. Clearly, for the sake of cultural immersion, you may want to join them.
Well all that looks a lot more appetising than I was expecting – some similarities to the country in which we’re sitting right now of course. Not sure about so much butter in a bowl of soup – but then you never know till you try – and we would try. 😉
Certainly a familiar menu 🙂 Their dolma are a nice change on the Turkish version. As for the soup, a bit too much butter but I guess you need it for eastern European winters!
Great post. Moldovan food was quite surprisingly delicious, and I haven’t tried some of the dishes you mention. I guess I’ll have to go back. Honestly, when we visited last year, we didn’t find anything we didn’t like. My favorite thing was molotor. I wrote a post about it here: http://www.reflectionsenroute.com/blog/2011/12/11/moldova-wheres-that/
I hope you got to try some of their good wine with a dinner 🙂
Loved, loved, loved the wine! We went to Milestii Mici. Did you go there?
🙂 Long story…I’ll have to post about it soon. There was a break in attempt involved…
Extremely delicious post if I can say that! You should watch someone make butter tea in the Himalayas, it’s quite traumatising to see butter in tea but oh it tastes SO GOOD. btw I have a theory that anything with feta and olives tastes superb even if someone liek me makes it.
haha, ah yes, butter does really make most anything better. It’s like the frying formula of cooking – fry it – and it tastes better 🙂 I’ll have to now add your formula to the equation list: Priyank + feta + olives = great dish!
I love reading food post even though they make me insanely hungry. Usual it is one or two items on the post that make me feel this way. In this case however every item made my stomach rumble like I have never eaten before. Man I am hungry!!
haha, I should have posted don’t read when remotely hungry! 😉
Anil I just saw in my comment above that the words Insanely hungry are links?? Are they links on your end? I don’t know how this happened.
They’re not links now (didn’t see it)…
Just a point of clarification. The adjective for something from Moldova is “Moldovan”. “Moldovian” refers to something from the historical principality that included parts of eastern Romania and Moldova.
Thanks Josh, I completely confused myself while writing the post in the draft process. I’ll update and correct.
That is literally the best selection of food pictures I have seen on one blog post! Never been to Moldova, but Lithuana and Poland. Food looks similar, but I’d love to have had that adventure!
I’m honored to hear that!
I have never heard of Moldovan food before. However, everything looks so appetizing. Makes me thing of the time I visited Egypt with a group of friends. Some were worried about what they were going to eat during the 8 days stay. It ended being the best and cheapest food of the entire trip.
The best kind of surprise – edible 🙂
Anil, did you ever try spending some time with a family in Moldova, who would teach you what are their national dishes? What you wrote is about Europeans who order their food in Moldova. You forgot that the main stable dish in every Moldovan home is actually polenta, there are also other many ways to accompany this corn dish which is actually the Moldovan bread. What is disappointing is that you describe the influences of other countries in our cuisine, such as Ukrainian cabbage dolma? hm Solianka a Russian/Ukrainian soup, cirnatei – a Romanian/western dish and so forth. What about placinte? You never had one of those? Coltunasi? Salads? Fruit? and most important jin de casa. All the best with your endeavors but rather than spending in restaurants I thought food nomads actually pay locals to introduce them to their cuisine, not neighboring countries. Elena
troubling is the fact that your post implies Moldovans drink a lot of alcohol? compared to which country in the west? Take the remaining population of Moldova and compare it to a small country in the west and you would be shocked that in fact no Moldovans don’t drink that much, TOURISTS in Moldova can’t help themselves and yes drink the lot, but locals have no alcoholism.
Link to the alcohol information source is in the article.
As for the food, it’s from my perspective; the comparisons, food is often a lot older than our borders so the similarities aren’t surprising.
I appreciate your feedback though, perhaps I’ll have to make another trip back 🙂