Bulgaria is a wonderful, surprising, beautiful country. Joe and I, along with a few friends, traveled there in March/April 2016. We met lovely people, toured through three cities – Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv, Sofia – and a stop at the famous Rila Monastery, and ate many long, delicious meals al fresco. Our reason for going was summed up perfectly by our travel hashtag – #whynotBulgaria? We want to see the world, so it doesn’t matter to us in which order we see it. Bulgaria came through as a fabulous travel destination.
I liked the food in Bulgaria much more than Romania, where we spent the first half of our trip. I think Bulgarian food is just more my style – lots of salads, chicken and vegetables available with a very Mediterranean vibe.
For instance, let me introduce you to a Bulgarian staple: the shopska salad. A simple, fresh salad composed of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, thinly sliced red onions, parsley and sirene cheese. Sometimes it also includes olives and oregano, as pictured below. It’s served with a sprinkle of sunflower oil, but usually the oil and vinegar came to the table with the dish so we could season it ourselves.
We particularly enjoyed the sirene cheese in the shopska salad – a white brine cheese made from sheep, goat, cow’s milk or a combination thereof. It looks and feels like feta, but it has more of a subtle kick to it that gives it a distinct flavor. Sirene seems harder to find in the United States though, so I think feta will be an easy substitute when we recreate this dish at home.
We had a shopska salad at almost every lunch and dinner. Here’s another version of it (a lunch portion, as I’m sure you can tell by the lighting).
I also really enjoyed the meals served in clay pots – such perfect ambiance when you open the lid and the steamy aromas waft up to your nose for the first time. One night in Veliko Tarnovo I got this chicken pot, with mushrooms and other veggies soaking up the gravy and helping me drink my rakia – a fruit brandy popular in the Balkans, particularly Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a beautiful country with ancient ruins and rich history, although marred in places by the Soviet impressions of the latter half of the 20th century. We especially enjoyed Plovdiv, which seemed to be a young town with lots of energy. A return trip to Bulgaria is not out of the question, but who knows where we will end up next!
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the beautiful, delicious food we enjoyed in Bulgaria.