Visiting a foreign country is always fun and exciting. Who doesn't like to discover new places, along with their traditions and cultural habits? If you are anything like me, you find great pleasure in the local cuisine as well. After all, it would be a pity to pay for a plane ticket and a hotel room but not get to taste every delight the national gastronomy has to offer.


Romanian cuisine


Bucătăria tradiționala românească (traditional Romanian cuisine) is something to write home about and rarely does a tourist leave Romania unsatisfied. They usually return home with a small lexical treasure of precious words that make their mouth water long after their holidays are over. Words like:


  • sarmale: cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice, cooked slowly in the oven while the whole kitchen smells like heaven.
  • răcituri: pork jelly, flavoured with garlic and served with lemon juice or vinegar.
  • pastramă: smoked meat seasoned with herbs and spices.
  • tochitură: pan-fried cubed pork.


Tourists struggle with the words, but the reward is oh so sweet (or savoury)!


Between 1881 and 1947, Romania was ruled by the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen royal family and you'd be surprised to learn that their culinary tastes were quite simple. They did not require any pretentious French inventions or hard to find ingredients. The usual daily menu consisted of borș (slightly acidic vegetable soup, often known as “borsch” in English), pilaf (a rice dish with meat or vegetables), roasted meat, cartofi (potatoes) and compot (fruit boiled with sugar and slices of lemon). Most of the members of the royal family learned Romanian when they arrived in the country and gastronomical words were among the first they came into contact with.


If there’s one Romanian word you should learn in order to make all your senses collide it’s prăjitură (cake). Romanian cakes come in a huge variety, each more tantalising than the last. These delicacies can only be found in a cofetărie (pastry shop) and include prăjitură de ciocolată (chocolate cake) and various more expensive examples such as tort Joffre, prajitura Excelent and prajitura Richard.


In a restaurant: the menu


Going to a good Romanian restaurant is an unforgettable experience and you should make sure that you know at least some of the right words before you arrive. Your efforts will not go unnoticed and the hours you have spent sweating over the dictionary will certainly be worth it.


The waiter will greet you with a friendly yet polite bună ziua (hello) or bună seara (good evening) and will give you the meniul (menu). He might let you know about o reducere la meniul casei (daily discounts on the menu prices).


He’ll then give you some time to mull over your choices and get your tongue feeling more comfortable with their pronunciation (in anticipation of the tastes). He’ll ask you v-ați decis? (have you decided?) and you will tell him your selections in the best Romanian that you can muster.


The options are endless. If it's micul dejun (breakfast time) you could ask for:


  • omletă (omelette)
  • pastramă (the smoked meat from earlier)
  • ochiuri (fried eggs)
  • pâine prăjită (toast)
  • unt (butter)
  • gem (jam)
  • cafea (coffee)


If it's prânzul (lunch time) or cina (dinner time), you’ll be able to ask for things like:


  • ciorbă (sour soup)
  • supă (vegetable or meat soup)
  • friptură (roasted meat)
  • grătar (grilled meat)
  • tocăniță (stew)
  • musaca (aubergine with minced meat)
  • pește (fish)
  • salată (salad)
  • murături (fermented vegetables)


As far as drinks are concerned, you could try:


  • apă (water)
  • vin (wine)
  • țuică (a traditional alcoholic spirit)


Finally, you will most likely end your meal with:


  • o prăjitură (cake)
  • o înghețată (ice cream)


Then, you should gracefully thank the chelner (waiter) by saying mulțumesc. He will politely answer să vă fie de bine! (I hope you enjoyed it!).


In a restaurant: a typical interaction


Below, you will find an example of a typical interaction with a Romanian waiter:


Waiter: Bună ziua/bună seara, bine ați venit la restaurantul nostru! Hello / Good evening, welcome to our restaurant!

Customer: Bună ziua/bună seara Hello / Good evening!

Waiter: Poftiți meniul. Astăzi aveți reducere la meniul casei. Here's the menu. Today there’s a discount on the house menu.

Customer: Mulțumim. Thank you.


După 5 minute (5 minutes later)


Waiter: V-ați hotărât? Have you decided?

Customer: Da, aș dori o ciorba de pui si o friptură de porc cu salată de sfeclă. Yes, I would like the chicken soup and the roast pork with beetroot salad.

Waiter: Doriți si un desert? Would you like something for dessert too?

Customer: Da, o porție din prăjitura casei. Yes, a slice of today’s cake.

Waiter: Ce doriți de băut? And what would you like to drink?

Customer: Apă minerală vă rog si un pahar de vin alb. I'd like mineral water and a glass of white wine please.

Waiter: Imediat, domnule/doamnă! Coming right up, Sir/Madam.


După o glorioasă experiență gastronomico-lingvistică (After a glorious culinary and linguistic experience)


Customer: Nota, vă rog! Can I have the check, please?

Waiter: Plătiți in numerar sau cu cardul? Will you pay cash or by card?

Customer: Cu cardul. By card.

Waiter: Vă mulțumim și va mai așteptăm pe la noi. Thank you, please come back again.

Customer: Mulțumesc, la revedere! Thank you, goodbye!


When you pay, it will be in the local currency, which is the leu (watch out, it means lion!). You might even give the waiter a little bacșis (tip), but only if you were especially pleased with the way you were served; it’s entirely optional in Romania.


On the way to the hotel, you’ll probably start thinking about all the new words that you’ve heard and try to practice their pronunciation. Later, you’ll most likely end up counting down the hours until you're hungry again!


New dishes and new words! Mmmmmm. Language learning has never been so delicious.


Image Sources


Hero Image by Nicu Buculei (CC BY-SA 2.0)