Romanian Eats

What kind of foods do the folks in Cluj take in? The answer: any and all mixes of meat and cheese. In this picture, taken at ‘Speed’, a 24-hour diner just outside of Plaza Unirii (downtown Cluj), I’m taking in something called a caş (cazsh) sandwich. It’s a sandwich, but instead of meat, it has a big wedge of fried cheese between the buns. Talk about cholestorol! Served with a fine side of french fries and cole slaw. And no 24-hour restaurant will serve food without a cappuchino accompaniment.

Next up (no photo) would be the appetizer tradition of meat and cheese. I cannot remember the romanian word for this assortment — but its the closest thing I’ve seen next to my Mom’s football gameday tray. There’s usually an array of 5 different dried meats and 5 different cheeses and some fresh olives. Included in the meats is always some pork fat (really nasty stuff if you ask me). It may seem a little heavy for an appetizer, but in general if you’re at a nice restaurant — you’re sacking it in for a 3 hour experience anyway so you have time to get hungry again. After the appetizer, you may like to burn off that food with a shot of Suica — the local plum derived hard liquor.

What about the main course? Well I’ve had sll sorts of things. They’re a big fan of soups here, including a soup well known for its hangover curing properties: ‘Tripe Soup’. Tripe. Yes, that’s right — cow stomach lining soup. The texture of the floating bits in this delicacy are a little slimy, but if you can stomach raw oysters you should do OK with tripe. Usually, you’d have something more than just soup. Mabye a breaded chicken schniitzel. Maybe some meat and potato dish. I had something during this meal in Turda that was akin to an all in one breakfast casserole. The farming folks typically eat this dish when its cold, because its heavy and it ‘sticks to the ribs’ for sure. A pot of grits, 5 pieces of bacon, and a few fried eggs are baked in the oven and served in the baking dish. It seemed like a big breakfast to me, but here its a nourishing dinner.

At work, there is no cafeteria (never thought I’d miss Sodexho) but that doesn’t mean you go out for lunch all the time. With the heavy traffic in Cluj and the shortage of ‘fast’ lunch options, you’re looking at a 2-3 hour adventure for lunch. The NI-Romania guys usually have a catering service deliver food the office at lunchtime. I’ve had quite a few ‘Menui Zillei’s (‘menu of the day’) in my stay here. They’re usually 2 items: a bean/vegetable soup and some sort of meat/rice dish. Not too bad really, but a far cry from the ole Mopac Theme Cuisines.

Of course, no one goes out to eat all of the time. So sometimes you gotta suck it up and find the nearest ‘Hypermarket’. The supermarkets here have all sorts of goodies, though it can be a very intimidating experience w/ all of these foreign items and no english descriptions attached. Here’s a picture of my shopping trip to Cora’s — where I picked up the necessary items for my kitchenette in order to make pasta, cook up sausages, and boil water for tea. The biggest difference (aside from the tubs of ‘Crap’ in the seafood isle — yes the container says ‘Crap’ in big red letters, it’s the name of a local fish) would be the enormous selection of meats and cheeses. I still haven’t found the brînzá de conşuleţ that was recommended to me, but I’ve seen every other type of cheese imaginable. The hardest part of the Romanian shopping experience is transporting the groceries back to your apartment — if you don’t have a car — like me. I have been packing up the ole trusty backpack to the brim with food for the taxi home, or calling Dan P for a ride to the store (thanks man!). Anyway, speaking of all these groceries, they won’t eat themselves. Time to mix up a hotplate dinner…


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