Top 20 Moldovan Foods: A Flavor-trip Through the Local Cuisine
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “Moldova”? It’s Moldovan cuisine and Moldovan wine, of course.
The local cuisine is a unique blend of various 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 mustn’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 out of 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 in a cabbage leaf. Just for the record, Moldovans often cook it with vine leaves too.
In addition, while other cuisines opt for lemon juice or tomato sauce as a topping, local citizens love dousing theır 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 each guest, as the dumplings can be filled with a wide range of ingredients: chopped meat, mashed potatoes, 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, top with high-quality sour cream.
4. Zeama (Chicken Noodle Soup)
Let’s mix up our “hearty” food list with a healthy and light soup called zeama.
It is certainly a chicken soup but zeama has its own unique and specific taste. It generally consists of chicken, homemade noodles, and fresh vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes, and bell peppers.
The secret of such its specific flavor lies in adding borș acru de casa, a liquid ingredient 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 potatoes, 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 local citizens. They’ll gladly steer you to the best place so you can enjoy the best of Moldovan pies.
This is the first dish this list of Moldovan food that isn’t served with sour cream. Congratulations!
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 up in large quantities to serve to numerous guests. Most often, it’s eaten as a side dish to fried meats.
7. Răcitura (Meat Jelly)
The world is basically divided into two: 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. Then the broth is 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 know, you were missing it).
9. Chiftele cu Piure (Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes)
Flat, round meatballs are usually made from minced pork, though they can also be made with chicken or beef, and mixed with spices. They’re commonly served with mashed potatoes to create a great taste combination.
Moldovans adore cooking it with a delicious tomato sauce. However, to mix it up a bit, you can add some vegetables or 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 to 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 from pork cut into small cubes. People usually cook it over a low fire in its own fat and juices. Then it is served with over-easy eggs and the well-known mămăligă.
Depending on your tastes, it can be made with or without tomato sauce. You’re also welcome to choose what kind of 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. Borsch 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 adding combinations of veggies, including carrot, onion, potato, cabbage, tomato, and sometimes meat. If you wish to explore the full range of the borsch flavors, you need to add some sour cream and prepare several pieces 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 comes with a lot 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 is 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.
One more incredible dessert in our cart! Cozonac is a sweet bread usually prepared for Easter and all major holidays celebrated in Romania and Moldova.
It combines ingredients such as milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and yeast. It can also have other ingredients depending on the region and even the country. For example, Romanian and Moldavian people add lemon zest to the dough mixture. Others prefer to add raisins, grated orange, walnuts, hazelnuts, vanilla, or chocolate, while others will sprinkle the top 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 varieties depending on the region, and it’s very similar to Ukrainian borsch. However, it has a brighter, almost transparent color. Instead of brioche (common among Ukrainians), Moldovans serve chorba with spicy pepper or olives.
Our top tip: tell your restaurant waiter or chef that you’d like to have some authentic ciorbă for your dinner, 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 try to watch their figure. Plums filled with nuts are a light dessert, and it’s definitely worth going for this rather than chocolates or snacks; 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 from cottage cheese.
It doesn’t require standing over a stove for many hours either. Mix some cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, and flour in one bowl and make some little balls from the soft dough. 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.
Local citizens usually serve them on holidays and special occasions. Every housewarming party host knows that all the guests will enjoy savoring 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 if someone doesn’t like sweets, there’s no doubt they’ll 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 are being extensively 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.