For breakfast, most Romanians will prefer salty foods over cakes and croissants. Before starting their day, they will quickly prepare a sandwich or an omelette, alongside a nice cup of coffee.
Occasionaly, we also have butter and jam spreads, sweet biscuits with cocoa milk, coffee or tea, and more recently, cereal and milk and other imported meals. Still, salty foods are predominant.
In the past, traditional drinks, besides coffee, would have been warm milk, cocoa milk or sweetened tea (sometimes with a bit of rum essence). Fruit juice and hot cocoa are new additions, and not many Romanians will have these for breakfast.
Leaving aside biscuits, jams, cereal and croissants, which you all probably already tasted in your own countries or on vacation, for breakfast Romanians love to eat eggs, cheese or cold cuts with tomatoes, cucumbers or bell peppers.
Some of our favourite cheese (brânză in Romanian) types are:
- Brânză telemea. Of Turkish origin, and usually made from cow’s milk, but also from sheep or buffalo milk, this Feta-like cheese goes great with fresh tomatoes in the morning. Some of the more eccentric Romanians also eat it together with watermelon cubes.
- Brânză de burduf. This one is usually made from sheep milk and it’s considered better if it has a strong, spicy (pinching) flavour. Usually prepared in sheep stomach, you can also find it in a tree bark box, especially in the mountainous areas (but also in many traditional shops everywhere). For breakfast, it goes great in cheese omelettes, but it’s also our favourite with hot mămăligă, which is traditionally the peasant’s bread (a sort of porridge made from corn flower, a bit of oil and salt).
- Cașcaval. This is basically a type of string cheese you will find everywhere in the world. It is similar to Gouda or Emmental, in that it has a hard, but elastic consistency and melts when heated. It works great in sandwiches or with vegetables.
- Caș is practically like a younger cașcaval, a very fresh curd cheese that was slightly salted to keep. A tasty variety of this cheese is smoked caș (sometimes sold as cășuleț afumat). It is very fresh and delicious and you can find it in shops selling traditional products.
- Năsal cheese is newer in Romanian supermarkets and has a legend attached to it, saying that peasants from Năsal area in the Middle Ages hid their cheese in a cave so that they wouldn’t have to surrender it to their land keepers (boyars). A bacteria in that cave produced a special type of mold on the cheese, giving it the special taste. To me, it seems quite similar to a Brie or Camembert cheese, so if you like these, do give it a try.
Cured meats (raw or cooked) are also found in Romanian breakfasts, and among these, the most common are:
- Smoked sausages (cârnați), such as Pleșcoi (made from sheep meat, spiced with thyme and hot paprika – and not only-, semi-smoked, the original Pleșcoi sausages are a real treat), cârnați oltenești (made with beef and pork, semi-smoked, non-spicy), Babic (raw, dried and smoked, made with beef and pork) or Ghiudem (raw, dried and smoked, made with beef and mutton).
- Pastrami made from pork, beef or mutton, but also chicken and turkey
- Smoked fish, such as mackerel
- Șuncă or Slănină, either smoked or in brine – this is a type of bacon made from pork belly (the fat part with just a stripe of meat) that has been kept in paprika, thyme and salt and then smoked, or just kept in brine until tender. It is eaten usually with spicy mustard and bread, but also in omelettes.
- Tobă is a product prepared somewhat similarly to Scottish Haggis. It’s usually made from pork offal and fat meat, including the skin, that has been boiled in a large pot over the stove, with certain spices. The boiled meat is then cut into smaller pieces and wrapped in the pig’s stomach, then boiled in the same water over the stove for a few hours. It’s absolutely disgusting and delicious, and also served with mustard.
- Greaves are also a traditional product that can be eaten for breakfast, or sometimes as an entree. They are prepared from pork meat and kept in lard until used (in an omelette, for example). (Btw, lard spread on bread and sprinked with some chopped onions is also delicious.)
Besides meats, cheeses and eggs, for breakfast we might also have some eggplant/pepper/mushroom spreads (zacuscă recipe here or salată de vinete recipe here) or a bean and garlic spread similar to hummus (fasole făcăluită recipe here).
Is your mouth watering already? Here’s a list of several traditional restaurants in Bucharest that serve cold platters, meaning a huge plate of traditional meats, cheeses and/or spreads:
- La Copac (Address: Pitar Moș, 23) – ask for Platou la Copac, Platou Mioritic, or Platou de Șpriț
- Hanu’ lui Manuc (Address: Str. Franceză, nr. 62-64) – Tipsie cu brânzeturi, Platou Giugiuc, Platoul Transhumanței, or Platoul Gospodinei
- La Mama (Address: Episcopiei 9 / Splaiul Independentei 210-213 / Str. Bacani nr 1) – Gustare Tradițională, Gustare Verde
- Taverna Covaci (Address: Str. Covaci Nr. 1) – Platou Tradițional, Platou Boieresc, Platoul Gurmandului, Platou Taverna Covaci
- Lacrimi și Sfinți (Address: Șepcari 16) – the platters from the Cold Starters menu
- Caru cu Bere (Address: Stavropoleos 5) – Mizilic românesc, Platou țărănesc
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and most traditional restaurants will have a platter or two on their menus. However, the difference may be in the quality of the products (from small producers, homemade, or bought from the supermarket).
In the old center of Bucharest there is also a very nice shop with good quality traditional products, called Barză, Viezure, Mânz (Address: Șepcari 21). Same as the restaurant Lacrimi și Sfinți, the shop’s owner is writer Mircea Dinescu. Inside you will find the tastiest treats arranged beautifully on shelves, in baskets or hanging from the walls.