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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Romania

Culinary Influences

Romania Food - Pastries
Pastries

Romanian food isn't very unique; in fact it is a cuisine that is almost entirely influenced by outside sources. There are few unique dishes, but rather a plethora of variations on foreign dishes.

These outside influences begin with the formation of Romania. Named after the Romans, they, along with the Greeks were the first strong culinary influence on Romania. In the centuries following, their cuisine was influenced by each of the conquering people who invaded including the Saxons (Germans), Slavs, Magyars (Hungarians), and Turks among others. It was the Turks and Ottomans who had perhaps the greatest influence on Romania's modern day cuisine.

Staple Foods

Mamaliga: cornmeal boiled in salt water until it's mushy; this is served with nearly every traditional meal as a base or side

Regional Variations & Specialties

Ciorba de Burta: a soup typically made with garlic and vinegar
Sarmale: ground beef (minced meat), rice, and spices wrapped in grape leaves and boiled

Dining Etiquette

Romanian Food - Mamaliga
Mamaliga

The Romanians are somewhat formal in many ways and this includes dining. Dress conservatively, but more on the formal side and arrive on time. Some households may request that you leave your shoes at the door, so if you see shoes there, take them off to save the host an awkward request.

After you're shown a seat, sit only when everyone else sits down. You'll probably be served a number of courses, typically beginning with soup and the words pofta buna (good appetite). Leave your napkin on the table while eating, keep your hands on the table, and dine in the continental style, which means you keep the knife in the right hand and fork in your left.

If you finish your plate, you will surely be offered seconds and thirds. Turn down this food at first; only after your host's insistence should you succumb to their offerings. If you truly are done, place your knife and fork together.

If eating at a restaurant, the inviter pays for everyone, but you should offer to assist, although this will most likely be turned down.

At sit down restaurants with a waiter or waitress, round up or tip about 10% of the bill, but tip at your discretion and in Romania you'll probably need your discretion since service isn't one of the country's strong suites.

Drinks

Romania has all the world's most popular drinks, but adds a couple more unique beverages. Sadly, there are few original non-alcoholic drinks in the country, although all the popular drinks are available, including tea, coffee, juices, soft drinks, and milk.

Among the alcoholic beverages, the Romanians get more creative. Many people distill alcohol at home and these drinks can be made from any number of different fruits and berries. One example, palinca, is a fruit brandy with an alcohol content well over 50%. Wine and beer are also popular, particularly beer among the ethnic Romanians and wine among the ethnic Hungarians. In addition to these, all popular alcoholic beverages are widely available.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Romania, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013