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.