As a whole the traditional Bulgarian cuisine is similar to the Mediterranean one – lots of minced meat, pork, eggs, bread, sirene and yogurt.
Here is a list of local dishes and drinks you must try at least once, while in Bulgaria.
Shopska salad: made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, raw or roasted peppers, and sirene (white brine cheese); a Shopska salad and a small cold rakia is a traditional and favourite way to start your meal in Bulgaria
Shkembe Chorba is a type of tripe soup (tripe is the thick lining of the stomach of cattle). Seasoning the soup with garlic, vinegar and chilli peppers is a must. You either love it or hate it – nothing in between. It is a difficult soup to cook and it’s hard to find a place where you can eat a really good Shkembe Chorba. I know many Bulgarians who like to eat Shkembe Chorba after a heavy night of drinking. They say it helps the hangover…
Sujuk – Sujuk consists of ground meat (usually beef) with various spices including cumin, sumac, garlic, salt, and red pepper, fed into a sausage casing and allowed to dry for several weeks. It goes very well with heavy red wines in the winter time.
Similar to sujuk is Lukanka. It is Bulgarians’ favourite salami. Traditionally, Lukanka is made of pork, beef, and spices (black pepper, cumin, etc.) minced together and stuffed into a length of dried cow’s intestine as Casing. The white stuff on top is flower. You can find different brands of Lukanka in the grocery stores. It is much more expensive compared to other local salami, sausages and meets. We eat Lukanka raw and thinly sliced usually as an appetizer. Foreigners often say that it smells like worn socks to them, but… what do foreigners know:)
Banitsa – a traditional Bulgarian pastry prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of sirene between thin pastry and then baking it in an oven. The home-made version is the best because the pastry is actually made by hand. Where they sell banitsa they usually offer boza – a thick, sweet, brownish drink made of wheat, which we think, goes very well with banitsa. You can also find boza in the supermarkets.
Kiselo Mlyako – Yogurt. Yogurt as such originates from the Bulgarian region. The bacteria which turns the milk into yogurt lives around the Bulgarian region and it is called “bactericus bulgaricus” They have tried to ship the bacteria to different regions but so far no luck with that. Mr and Mrs Bulgaricus seem to have liked the Bulgarian region and refuse to breed anywhere else. Real yogurt has nothing to do with the creamy sweet substance that Dannone produces. In fact not all yogurts in Bulgaria are real yogurts. I can recommend a few brands that still taste like the real stuff: “Био Кисело Мляко”, “Елена” and there are probably good small local brands.
Sirene (white brine cheese) – pour some olive oil, sprinkle red pepper on top and its the perfect appetizer and goes very well with local red wines. There is a large variety of brands out there. I recommend these two: “Био Краве Сирене” and “Маджаров”. They are pricier but way tastier.
Rakia – strong fruit brandy. I am a big fan of Rakia, but I do not drink the one that they sell in the stores. I only drink home-made Rakia – the one made of plums is my favourite. But be careful with the home-made rakia since it can be overly strong. If you have to order or buy rakia the best popular brand is Burgas 63 (Бургас63). Remember this basic equation: Rakia + Shopska salad = great way to start your meal.
Wines – Bulgaria is a wine country and wine tourism has a bright future. You should try Mavrud a unique red wine, common only to the region of Thrace in Bulgaria.