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September 19, 2010

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A Romanian culinary coup

THE steaming beef soup with celery and fresh herbs smelled lovely as the chef placed the bowl in front of me. I took a sip and immediately knew that I had entered a new exciting taste region. It was the taste of Eastern Europe and the beautiful country of Romania.

I did not have much experience with Romanian food, which made the visit even more thrilling, and as the dishes kept coming, all looking fabulously delicious, my interest rose. It did not take long to understand that the key ingredient in the Romanian kitchen was meat. Almost all the dishes we were served contained meat in one way or another and for me, a former vegetarian, it could have been difficult to handle all that protein. But it was not. Not at all. Instead, it was difficult to stop. There were so many dishes and to be able to try them all I had to stop myself from munching away on the beef soup, or the meatball soup, or the minced meat rolled in cabbage. Otherwise I probably would have been too full to try the pork chest boiled in cabbage leaf soup, or the minced meat rolls called meech dipped in mustard, or the meatballs or the cheese balls or... Yes, I could go on and on and on. Those cheese balls, however, deserve a more thorough description, since I am a big cheese lover after all. The cheese was mixed with bread and egg and after being rolled like a meatball it was dipped into boiling oil to get a thin deep-fried surface. Yummy!

Another favorite was the grilled mutton that was served with polenta, which is made of boiled cornmeal. It has a distinctive smooth creamy texture and was originally considered peasant food. Today, however, you can find polenta in the most exclusive shops and restaurants and I can assure you that it goes very well with the Romanian mutton. As a refreshing compliment to all the meat dishes we had some white wine, diluted with sparkling water. That is a common combination in Romania during the summer to make the wine lighter. Together with the homemade crispy bread, still hot from the oven, it was the perfect ending to a perfect dinner at the Romania Pavilion.

Keep munching and remember to watch for more Munching Matilda!


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