Discover the highlights of Bulgarian cuisine and national specialities...
Tarator is a refreshing yoghurt based soup made with cucumber, dill, nuts, oil and garlic and served very cold, either as an appetizer or a side-dish.
Popular Bulgarian dishes of Turkish origin include kebabche, spicy minced-meat in a sausage shape and cooked under the grill and kyufte, which are very similar but round and flat. Pork and beef kebabs known as shishche are also a favourite on Bulgarian tables.
Bulgarian dishes are often cooked with offal and other parts of the animal that are not traditionally used in other parts of the world. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find stomach soup (shkembe tchorba), as well as brains (mozak) or tongue (ezik) on a Bulgarian menu.
Snacking is a popular pastime and in large cities street vendors sell semki (grilled sunflower seeds), byoureki (similar to banitsi but with an egg) and palatchinki (pancakes).
Salads (salata) are often served as a starter but can also accompany dishes or be a meal in themselves. Shopska is made up of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onions and sprinkled with grated sirene, a Bulgarian cheese. Snejanka is prepared with cucumbers (krastavitsi) marinated in vinegar and yoghurt. Kartofi salata is a potato salad with vinegar. Salads are often dressed with oil and vinegar.
Cheese is common in Bulgaria and is often used in salads and Bulgarian dishes. Sirene is a white cheese very similar to feta, produced with with either sheep's or cow's milk. Kashkaval is very similar to cheddar and made with sheep's milk. Often used in toasted sandwiches it is also dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then deep fried (kashkaval pane).
Bulgarian dishes that are cooked with cheese include kyufte tatarsko, a spicy pork hamburger filled with melted cheese and parjeni kartofi sas sirene, fried potatoes covered in melted sirene.
Typical dishes from the region of Rhodopes include patatnik, a cheese, potato and onion omelette and mletchnik, a dessert similar to a crème caramel.
Kavarma is a dish from the region of Bansko and is a combination of meat, rice and sauerkraut cooked in an earthenware dish.
A well-known dish served on the Black Sea coast is midi tzigane, sautéed mussels served in a spicy cheese and mustard sauce.
Desserts of Turkish origin include baklava made with honey and pistachio nuts, and Turkish Delight. Kadayif is a dessert of Middle Eastern origin made up of nuts and shredded wheat covered in syrup. Cakes filled with chocolate or fruit and readily available throughout the country as is ice-cream, on the menu in most restaurants.
Cafés and cafeterias can be found throughout Bulgaria and often serve Bulgarian dishes, salads and soups, although some cafés will just serve drinks. Mehani are traditional restaurants serving only authentic Bulgarian cuisine. Restaurants are often open continually from 11:00 until late at night. Note that when ordering a main dish, it will often be served without any trimmings - potatoes and vegetables for example, will have to be ordered separately.
If invited to a Bulgarian home for dinner it is a tradition to bring a gift of flowers - an odd number (even numbers of flowers are given at funerals).
Rakia is a Bulgarian spirit served as an aperitif usually made from grapes (grozdova), there are rakia made from plums (slivova) or apricots (kaysiya).
Bulgaria produces some red and white wines as well as some beers.