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Bulgarian cuisine explored

Holidays to Bulgaria offer a fascinating mix of contrasts and this includes when sampling the delicious food and drink. There are a wide range of regional dishes which vary depending on the local landscape and what can be grown. And on top of that, national dishes have been developed over the centuries from Russian, Italian, Greek, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. This makes traditional Bulgarian cuisine very tasty and extremely diverse.


Traditional ingredients in Bulgarian cuisine

Freshly picked fruit, vegetables and local dairy products, particularly yoghurt, feature in most Bulgarian menus. They're all brought together in Bulgarian soups, which can range from thick and hearty to light and cold for eating on hot summer days. Then there are the various breads and pastries, from pitta bread to filo, eaten both to accompany meals and have as snacks.

Fried food is rare in Bulgaria as they prefer grilled and roasted dishes. The most popular meats of pork, lamb and sometimes veal tend to be grilled and lightly spiced, with fresh fish being treated in much the same way and being particularly popular in the coastal regions around the Black Sea.

Bulgaria is well known for its beers and excellent wines too, which are definitely a must-try when you visit. There's also rakia which is a traditional liqueur found across the Balkan region made from fermented plums and grapes. Some Bulgarian versions have herbs, honey, cherries and walnuts added to make it extra delicious.

Popular Bulgarian dishes

To give you a flavour of the kinds of options you'll find on holiday we've listed a few of Bulgaria's most popular dishes.

Banista



Banista are filo pastry parcels that are traditionally filled with local sirene cheese, which is similar to Greek feta cheese. You can also get them with other savoury fillings, such as onions, mushrooms or pumpkin.

Sweet banistas are a breakfast favourite and are usually filled with apples and walnuts. On special occasions, such as New Year, a few banistas are filled with paper charms and coins. It's considered lucky if you find one of these in the banista you're eating.

Kebapche

You guessed it, kebapche comes from the word kebab and 'che' means little, so it's a little kebab. They look a bit like a flattened hot dog and are made of minced meat lightly spiced with cumin and black pepper and grilled. Bulgaria's most popular version of 'fast food', they're most often served as a side dish or with French fries plus a large, cold glass of Bulgarian beer.

Shopska Salata

Although this is officially recognised as a Bulgarian national dish this salad was actually invented in the 1960s as part of a tourist promotion. The colours in the salad – red tomatoes, green cucumbers and white cheese and onions, represent the colours of the Bulgarian flag. The salad is usually dressed in salt, sunflower oil and vinegar.

Moussaka



Just as it sounds, Bulgarian moussaka is a version of Greek moussaka, but in the Bulgarian dish potatoes are used between the layers of minced meat instead of aubergine. When the dish is served it's covered in a thick layer of yoghurt.

Tarator

Tarator is a light summer soup that's served cold, similar to Italian gazpacho, with a base of yoghurt with cucumbers, garlic, dill and sometimes walnuts. It's traditionally served as a first course, or as refreshment between courses. It's also sometimes drunk from glasses rather than using a bowl and spoon.

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