The cuisine of Muntenia – the historic area situated on the Romanian Plain and including Bucharest – has an ancient tradition of a harmonious mix of meat, vegetables and dairy products.
The characteristic cooking procedure is boiling:
- On high flames for rich sauces
- On low flames for broths and soups.
Broths are specific to Muntenia and Bucharest. No respectable menu starts without a good "ciorba" a broth made with meat, vegetables and borsch (a natural ferment with a poignant sour taste). The origins of broth as a meal are Russian, but in Muntenia it grew into a specific, traditional meal by adding local seasonings and vegetables.
Even if times changed the culinary preferences, some meals are staples of Romanian cuisine and will always remain on top of the preferences among the inhabitants of Bucharest:
- Minced meat rolls which go extremely well with fine mustard and a cold beer during the hot summer days
- Tripe soup, seasoned with sour cream and vinegar, served with a chili pepper on the side
- Minced meat wrapped in sauerkraut (sarmalute) with polenta and plenty of sour cream
- Well seasoned steaks with steamed vegetables or fresh salads on the side.
At the present, the cuisine specific to Bucharest and Muntenia in general is the result of the joint “cooking” of various ethnic influences of the minorities which settled and integrated into the Romanian society along the centuries.
Some of the oldest influences on the Romanian cuisine come from the Turkish cuisine. During many centuries, the Ottoman Empires raided Wallachia in the attempt to conquer it. Victors and defeated, the Romanians and Turks learned something from each other. We do not know exactly what Romanian meals entered the Turkish cuisine. However, the Romanians developed a taste for halvah, moussaka, rich and seasoned sauces and deserts prepared with plenty of honey and walnuts, specific to the Turkish cuisine. Eggplants were also introduced by the Turks in the Romanian cuisine – now this vegetable is an essential ingredient for vegetable stews or cold salads.
The Fanariot occupation was a troublesome period in the 18th century for Bucharest, but the settlement of an important number of Greek families had a strong influence on the food that could be found on the people’s tables. Olives, unknown to Romanians until then, became a staple for entrees and an important ingredient in stews and steamed meals. The Greeks also taught Romanians to eat consistent salads, with cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, or with fish and vegetables, as a stand alone course.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the strongest influences on Romanian cuisine come from Western Europe, especially from France and Italy. Mayonnaise, Mediterranean salads, seafood and the replacement of sunflower seeds oil by olive oil were enthusiastically adopted by the inhabitants of Bucharest, always in search for delicious food.