Bulgarian Food

If you are invited to someone's home or choose a good traditional restaurant you'll be able to sample what's best about Bulgarian cuisine; plenty of fresh vegetables, eaten raw, roasted or stewed with meat in terracotta. Lots of garlic, onions, oil and spices. Influence of its neighbours, Turkey and Greece are also present in dishes such as 'sarmi' - stuffed wine leaves, 'moussaka' and 'baklava'.

Bulgarians like their salads - a salad and rakia (Bulgarian spirit/schnapps, usually made from grapes) are the obligatory start to the meal. Be warned, this stage of the meal can be a very drawn-out process lasting up to an hour.

These are some of the more popular Bulgarian salads, well worth a try:,

Shopska salata - chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers sprinkled with 'sirene' (Bulgarian white cheese);

Snezhanka - thick creamy yoghourt with chopped cucumber or gherkins, walnuts and garlic;

Kyopulo - roasted aubergines, peppers, loads of garlic, parsley.

Soups are also a very important element in the Bulgarian menu: ,

Bob chorba - traditional bean soup with vinegar and chilli, quite tasty if you can bring yourself to try it

Tarator - cold yoghourt and cucumber soup

Bulgarians like their meat - mainly pork, veal and chicken - grilled, fried or as a stew. The following are examples of meat dishes:

Kavarma - meat and vegetable stew

Gyuvech - stewed chunks of vegetables and lamb

Kyufteta - sspicy meat balls/hamburgers

Kebapcheta - spicy mince meat, sausage shaped, grilled

Vegetarians may find the choice on the menu a bit limiting which is a shame as there are plenty of delicious vegetarians dishes. Usually you can find the following, but if else fails, try a selection of starters or a combination salad (a plate of various salads):

Kashkaval (or sirene) pane - fried cheese

Chushki burek - fried peppers stuffed with egg and cheese

Sirene po shopski - white cheese, egg, tomatoes baked in a pot

The fame of Bulgarian wine speaks for itself - it is inexpensive and good. The normal rule applies that you need to pay slightly more than the cheapest to get a good one.

Bulgarian beers such as Astika, Zagorka and Kamenitsa are all very continental in their appeal and much cheaper than imported beers.

Bulgarian cuisine isn't strong on desserts, most restaurants offer only pancakes or creme caramel. Cafes usually have a good selection of pastries and cakes. The garash torta is the Bulgarian equivalent of the Sacher Torte, made from eggs, walnuts and cocoa.

Snacks are available all over the country in tiny shops or from stands on the streets. If you are feeling a little peckish - why not try:

Banitsa - fillo dough pastry filled with white cheese;

Gevrek - like a very dry bagel;

Kifla - croissant usually filled with jam

Piroshka - dough stick filled with white cheese and fried.

Finally if you are feeling really adventurous, try some boza - a thick malt drink with a distinct smell. It is said to be an acquired taste!