Sarmale – Romanian dish

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Romanian kitchen has Balkan influences. Several types of “ciorba” (something like a “sour soup”), mamaliga (“polenta”), mititei (“grilled sausages of mince”), various sorts of cheese and many more form the basis of traditional food menu.

“Sarmale” word comes from Turkish, where “sarma” means “wrapped thing”. All major Romanian celebrations are a good opportunity to cook and enjoy sarmale, “a taste feast”.

The ingredients are varied: minced meat (usually beef or pork), rice, onions, salt, pepper, celery (not mandatory), vegetable oil, finely diced bacon, sweet paprika (not mandatory) and finely chopped parsley are mixed together and then rolled into large plant leaves (usually fresh cabagge, sauerkraut or vine leaves). Once the minced meat is wrapped into the cabagge or vine leaves, the rolls are put into a deep pot with water, tomato sauce and juice, bay leaf, fresh dill (optional) and smoked ham. Bringing all to boil for 2 hours, the heat must be reduced to simmer and cook for another 2 hours (overall, sarmale must be cooked in the oven for at least 4 hours).

Mostly a traditional meal for Christmas, sarmale are best served with sour cream and polenta.

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