The other days I was thinking what makes me, a Romanian, feel at home. And then it hit me…the amazing smell of my grandma’s food hit me, straight out of the oven. It was sarmale (Minced pork, rice and some vegetables and condiments wrapped in sour cabbage).The most popular food in Romania on holidays, weddings, funerals and every other Sunday.
Many countries dispute the ownership of this food, but is basically impossible to tell is it was the Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Serbians, Croatians or Romanians who invented the “sarmale”. There is historical proof that in the Ice Age people were wrapping minced meat in leafs and boiled for food. So we can presume the sarmale were around for about 15 000 years so it might belong to any or all of the countries named above. But the recipe that we have in Romania is our own and is loved by all.
The name “sarma’ is close to the Turkish word “sarmak’ which means wrapping and it can refer to any kind of wrapped food, even sweets like the baklava.
In Romania we make sarmale for every important event of the life like baptism, wedding and funerals, for every holiday like Easter, Christmas or New Year Eve. Because during the Communist times meat was scarce, we would only make sarmale on weekends, once a month, so the sarmale have become for the Romanian family the weekend food.
The Romanian recipe is unique to us and is served in almost any restaurant in the country. The sour cabbage is usually the winter wrapping, as we pickle it to last during winter, and in summer the sarmale are either wrapped in grape leafs or in mulberry leafs that are boiled before wrapping.
The sarmale are best if cooked in a clay like in Transylvania, or cast iron pot like in Moldova, boiled and then ovened, with bacon between every layer and served with cream on top and peppers and polenta on the side.
When we cook this dish we make about 100 pieces, as every member of the family will eat about 5-8 pieces each (depending on the size), and because it is well known that the sarmale will taste even greater after a few days.
The traditional recipe is with pork and the condiments will vary depending on the region or the taste buds of the cook. It is said that a girl is not ready to become a wife if she doesn’t know how to wrap sarmale.
If you want to take a bite of Romania we welcome you to pay us a visit, and we will take you to where they make the best sarmale.
If you want to try making this dish at home, you can follow the recipe in the link – Romanian Sarmale. Pofta buna!
Photo sources: razvananton.ro, adihadean.ro