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Bulgarian Cuisine

Centuries of tradition make up traditional Bulgarian cuisine, which has been greatly influenced by its neighbours particularly Greece and Turkey and to a lesser extent by  the Middle East, Italy, Hungary and the Mediterranean countries.

Bulgaria's warm climate and varied natural features mean that a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs grow well here and traditional farming and growing methods mean that most natural produce is organic. The fresh taste created by organic Bulgarian produce is legendary and reminiscent of the days when fresh food had real flavour. Every region inthe country is home to many open air fruit and vegetable markets, where produce is sold fresh from the garden at a fraction of supermarket prices by a variety of small-scale local growers.

Bulgaria is also famed for its assortment and quality of dairy produce, eggs are predominantly free range with many villagers keeping their own chickens and its yoghurt, known locally as kiselo mlyako is sold throughout the world. Bulgarian feta cheese known as sirene is considered by many international chefs to be unrivalled. Traditional farming methods mean that sheep, goats and cows are herded to different pastures daily and are often still milked by hand.

Super Salads

Bulgaria is renowned for its tasty, fresh salads, which are eaten as an accompaniment to lunch and dinner and many Bulgarians insist that they accompany a glass of its national tipple Rakia. By far the most famous Bulgarian salad is the Shopska Salad whose name is said to originate from the people known as the Shopi who lived around the Shopluk part of the capital. They are believed to have invented the salad, which is now eaten across Eastern Europe. Snezhanka or Snow White Salad is made from thick yogurt and is served as an appetizer or as a side dish. It is effectively a version of Tarator soup and is equally as popular.

Satisfying Soups

Bulgarians also eat lots of delicious soups and some like the renowned Tarator are served cold. One particularly interesting soup is Shkembe Chorba or Tripe Soup made from the thick lining of a cow's stomach. Some Bulgarians spurn the soup as unappetizing, yet others deem it a national dish, whilst others claim it is the perfect antidote to a hangover. Bob Chorba or Bean Soup is probably the most famous hot soup on the Bulgarian menu. It is a simple dish made from a variety of dried beans and Bulgaria's most popular spice Chubritsa.

Mouthwatering Main Dishes

Whilst grilled meat dishes are extremely popular, Bulgaria is a haven for vegetarians; whilst there are some delicious meat dishes in Bulgaria, many of the dishes are ‘meatless' - in fact the Bulgarians eat only half the amount of meat compared to other EU countries, which is partly down to their Orthodox beliefs where many celebrations require abstinence from meat. Favourite main courses include Gyuvech, a tasty stew made from peppers, aubergines and meat served in a clay pot, Imam Bayaldi, which originates from Turkey and consists of an aubergine stuffed with meat, herbs and vegetables. Fish dishes are popular along the coast; they are served fried, grilled or as part of a stew or soup. Tsatsa is a small white fish deep fried in batter with fried potatoes as an accompaniment. Skumriya na Keremidi is a mackerel dish, which is baked in a clay pot and served with a rich tomato sauce. Moussaka is also popular although it is made with potatoes here. Sarmi a dish of rolled vine leaves and meat or rice is often served at Christmas and wedding feasts and Elenski But, a dried ham produced in the town of Elena is also a famous delicacy here. The Bulgarians hate waste and have invented some dishes purely to dispose of waste food. Popara a dish made from left over bread and Mish Mash a dish made from scraps of vegetables, eggs and cheese are two renowned dishes of this ilk.

Delicious Desserts

Bulgarian pastries are also well liked with the most famous being an adaptable sweet or savoury pastry called Banitsa.

Baklava a sweet pastry made from layers of filo pastry, Bulgarian honey and nuts is also a popular dessert with origins dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Kuzanak is a sweet, sugary bread similar to the Italian Panettone. It is given to guests at Christmas and Easter although it is made and sold throughout the year. The abundance of fresh fruit throughout the spring and summer enables Bulgarians to devote time to preserving and storing any leftovers to nourish them through the autumn and winter months. The most popular dish for using fruits in this way is Compote, is made of pieces of fruit simmered in a syrup made from sugar and water seasoned with either orange or lemon peel, vanilla or cinnamon.

Food Facts

Bulgarian is the fourth largest producer of medicinal herbs in the world, exporting a total of 12,000 tons per year, most of it to the European Union and the United States.

Around 350,000 people are employed in the herb industry. Over 3,000 different types of plants grow on the mountains of Bulgaria and more than 300 of these plants are used in the pharmaceuticals industry, while 750 types are used in alternative medicine. Some of the most popular herbs here are lavender, mint, thyme, chamomile, wild marjoram and St. John's Wort.

200,000 tons of Bulgarian yoghurt is sold in Japan every year.

Leading British chef, Anthony Worrell Thompson rated Bulgarian feta cheese (or sirene) as the best in the world.

Recipes for Baklava, Mousssaka, Shopska Salad, Tarator, Mish Mash, Sarmi and lots more can be found in our Members Area.