Top 20 Moldovan Foods: A Flavor-trip Through the Local Cuisine
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think if the country Moldova? Moldovan cuisine and Moldovan wine, of course.
The local cuisine is a unique blend of regional cuisines that have significantly influenced Moldovan food over the centuries. Many dishes have been borrowed from neighboring countries, such as Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, or inspired by Greek, Turkish, and Polish foods.
Thanks to the country’s location and natural resources, all ingredients found in the local cuisine are produced right here. Such a wide range of foods and their incredible taste always fascinates and delights tourists visiting the country.
Let’s have a closer look at the top 20 foods you simply can’t miss when traveling to Moldova.
Beyond any doubt, mămăligă is the best-known Moldovan dish. It’s the same recipe used in neighboring Romania and a lot similar to Italian polenta.
Mămăligă is a porridge made with yellow maize flour often served with sour cream and cheese on the side. Sometimes it is mashed up in a bowl of hot milk or served with meat (usually pork, called tocana) or even with fried fish and mujdei, a sauce made with garlic, oil, water, and vinegar.
2. Sarmale or Chiroște: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Sarmale or stuffed cabbage rolls are an irreplaceable part of every party and celebration here in Moldova. They usually consist of minced pork or chicken, rice, chopped caramelized onion, and carrots rolled up in a cabbage leaf. Just for the record, Moldovans often use grape leaves too.
In addition, while other cuisines opt for lemon juice or tomato sauce as a topping, locals love dousing their rolls in sour cream.
3. Colțunași cu Brânză: Cheese Dumplings
This is one of the most popular dishes in Moldova. It’s a win-win for every guest as the dumplings can be filled with a wide range of ingredients: chopped meat, mashed potato, dill seasoned cheese, sweet-sour cherries, plum jam, etc.
The dumplings don’t require a lot of cooking time. When the wheat flour dough is ready and stuffed, they only need to boil in salted water for a few minutes, and then, of course, topped with high-quality sour cream.
Let’s mix up our “hearty” food list with a light and healthy soup called zeama.
It is certainly a chicken soup but zeama has its own specific unique taste. It generally consists of chicken, homemade noodles, and fresh vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes, and bell peppers.
The secret of its specific flavor lies in adding borș acru de casa, a liquid of fermented wheat. Barley bran or lemon juice are acceptable substitutes for bors. The soup is usually served with sour cream (obviously), fresh bread, and spicy chili peppers if you’re a fan of spicy and peppery flavors.
5. Plăcinte: Moldovan Pies
Everybody loves these Moldovan pies: from our youngest to our oldest. That’s why you can find them everywhere. There are a lot of restaurants and shops offering freshly baked plăcinte.
The pies are so popular because of the variety of fillings, including potato, cabbage, cottage cheese, and, of course, the sweet versions, such as cherry, pumpkin, and apple.
If you want to taste the most delicious plăcinte, ask the locals. They’ll gladly steer you to the best place so you can enjoy the best of Moldovan pies.
This is the first dish on this list of Moldovan food that isn’t served with sour cream!
People often serve this salad on special occasions such as Christmas or Easter. It is a mix of finely chopped beef (chicken or turkey are popular choices too) and root vegetables, folded in home-made mayonnaise, and finished with murături (pickled vegetables).
It closely resembles Olivier salad, and like its brother-in-food, the salad is usually made in large quantities to serve to numerous guests. Most often, it’s eaten as a side dish for fried meats.
7. Răcitura: Meat Jelly
Their are basically two types of people: those who adore this meat jelly and those who have no stomach for it. However, it’s definitely worth tasting!
Răcitura is a cold dish made from a rooster cooked in a broth of garlic, spices, and vegetables. The broth is then poured into separate dishes alongside the meat and vegetables and left to cool for a few hours to let the jelly form.
8. Ardei Umpluți or Chiperi Umpluți: Stuffed Bell Peppers
Stuffed bell peppers consist of the same ingredients as stuffed cabbage rolls: rice, vegetables, and meat. However, amazingly, the taste is entirely different. Why so? That is thanks to the sweetness of the peppers. It gives a distinctive additional flavor to the rice. Obviously, this dish is also served with sour cream (I knew, you were missing it).
9. Chiftele cu Piure: Meatballs with Mashed Potato
Flat, round meatballs are usually made with minced pork, though they can also be made with chicken or beef and mixed with spices. They’re commonly served with mashed potato to create a great taste combination.
Moldovans adore cooking it with a delicious tomato sauce. However, to mix it up a bit, you can provide some vegetables or a fresh salad alongside the dish.
10. Pilaf: Rice Dish
This rice dish is often served as a complement to chiftele (fortunately, you already know what an exceptional meat dish chiftele is). It’s not a strictly Moldovan dish, as thousands of varieties are found all over the world.
The techniques for preparing it differ from Central Asia, where it’s called plov, to Indian and Turkish cuisines. It can include different combinations of meats, fruits, vegetables, and spices.
Nowadays, five leading schools of pilaf preparation can be found in Central Asian, Indian, Turkish, Iranian, and Caribbean cuisines. So, you’re welcome to decide what kind of pilaf you like and choose a recipe that best fits your tastes.
11. Tochitură: Traditional Stew
Meet a traditional Moldavian and Romanian dish. It’s made with small cubes of pork. It is usually cooked over a low heat in its own fat and juices. Then it is served with over-easy eggs and the well-known mămăligă.
Depending on your taste, it can be made with or without tomato sauce. And you can choose which meat you’d like to use: beef, lamb, or chicken.
12. Borș: Borscht
Borscht is usually associated with Ukrainian cuisine. However, it’s no less prevalent in other Eastern European countries, such as Russia, Romania, Belarus, Poland, and of course, Moldova. After zeama, borscht is the next most loved soup. Borscht has a sweeter flavor, though, and an unusual red color thanks to its main ingredient, beetroot.
There’s no exact formula for cooking borscht as it entirely depends on your taste. Nevertheless, Moldovans often use combinations of veggies, including carrot, onion, potato, cabbage, and tomato, and sometimes meat. If you wish to explore the full range of the borscht flavors, you need to add some sour cream and serve with several slices of fresh bread. Voila!
13. Pește Prăjit: Fried Fish
This fried fish is one of the tastiest seafood dishes in Moldovan cuisine. It’s frequently made with Crucian carp, which consists of lots of nutrients.
The fish is coated in cornflour and then fried in oil and served with mamaliga and garlic. Also, it can be complemented with mujdei, a traditional garlic-based sauce.
In fact, Moldovans will add seasonings and spices to the most everyday food—it helps to emphasize the taste of the dish, scaling it up to maximum.
14. Cușma lui Guguță: Crepes Cake
Cușma lui guguță is literally translated as Gugutsa’s hat. Why so? Because the dessert has a similar shape to the cap of Gugutsa, a famous Moldovan folktale character.
It’s a pyramid structure of stacked crepes, layered with sour cherries, glazed with whipped cream, and then sprinkled with dark chocolate. It’s one of the most popular Moldovan desserts and you will see it on every holiday table served with a cup of sweet tea or coffee.
Another incredible dessert in our cart! Cozonac is a sweet bread usually prepared for Easter and all major holidays celebrated in Romania and Moldova.
It involves milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and yeast, and other ingredients depending on the region and even the country. For example, Romanian and Moldavian people add lemon zest to the dough while others like to add raisins, grated orange, walnuts, hazelnuts, vanilla, or chocolate, and others sprinkle it with poppy seeds or cocoa powder.
16. Ciorbă: Sour Soup
Chorba (or shorba) is a light and delicious soup made from vegetables and beef. There are many versions, depending on the region, and it’s very similar to Ukrainian borscht. However, it has a brighter, almost transparent color. Instead of brioche (common among Ukrainians), Moldovans serve chorba with spicy peppers or olives.
Our top tip: tell your waiter or chef that you’d like to have some authentic ciorbă and you’ll get the healthiest and most delicious soup you’ve ever tried.
17. Prune Umplute cu Nuci: Plums Filled with Nuts
This is the best offering for those with a sweet tooth but who are watching their figure. Plums filled with nuts are a light dessert, and it’s definitely worth going for this rather than chocolates or snacks as this dessert is full of vitamins and healthy nutrients.
To make this super healthy dessert, you simply soak prunes in fruit cognac syrup and then fill them with walnuts. Add some whipped cream and serve in a glass.
There’s a word in Latin, papa, that means food for children. But it doesn’t mean that papanași were only created for kids!
Everybody adores these cheese pancakes—especially those wanting healthy food rich in protein, as papanași are made with cottage cheese.
It doesn’t require standing over a stove for many hours either. Mix some cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, and flour in a bowl and form the soft dough into little balls. While the cheese pancakes are frying, prepare sour cream and some currant jam for a sweet topping.
19. Cornulețe: Pastries with Turkish Delight
Even though this dessert includes Turkish food-vibes, cornulețe are considered Moldovan and Romanian pastries.
The ingredients make this dessert an explosion of flavor! They consist of vanilla, lemon rind, jam or marmalade, cinnamon sugar, walnuts, rum extract, raisins (depending on your taste preferences), and of course, some Turkish delight.
Locals usually serve them on holidays and special occasions. Every housewarming party host knows that all guests will savor every bite of the pastries, accompanied with a glass of Alb de Purcari wine.
20. Tort Smetanik: Vanilla-creamy Cake
Let’s finish our appetizing food list with one more dessert, a cake called smetanik. Although the cake comes from Russia, Moldova people love smetanik as much as, or even more than, Russians.
It’s very popular at parties, weddings, and birthdays. Even those not keen on sweets will change their mind when taking a bite of this melt-in-your-mouth cake. And of course, one of the main ingredients of the smetanik filling is…sour cream, that’s right! Just imagine the incredible taste of sour cream sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla.
You’ve just found out about some of the exciting foods you can savor on a trip to Moldova. Of course, each time you visit a local restaurant or café, you’ll find recipes that are continually being updated and modified.
However, despite the diversity of the rich tastes and exquisite flavors, the one ingredient that will forever remain an irreplaceable part of each Moldovan dish is, without a doubt, fresh, dense sour cream.
Related: Tasty Moldovan Desserts