Bulgaria is a country with a long culinary culture that is well worth seeing.
Bulgarian cuisine is a mash-up of what grows well in the area, particularly dairy products and a few herbs and spices.
Bulgarian cuisine is influenced by the Mediterranean and based on local products. However, tinkering with traditional food and presenting it in a new form while maintaining the same essence is elevating Bulgarian cuisine to new heights.
Milen Zlatev, the Executive Chef at Biorest restaurant, who has worked at some of the world’s greatest restaurants (including Clos Maggiore in London) and taught at Sofia’s HRC Culinary Academy, believes that Bulgarian cuisine has advanced significantly in the previous five to six years.
He also mentioned that he enjoys taking something from the past and presenting it with new ways to make it unique and to add his touch.
Students at the acclaimed culinary arts school spend semesters in Europe and the United States working in fine-dining restaurants. They also work at Talents, a restaurant run entirely by students from cooking schools.
It’s thrilling for Zlatev since they’ve been learning how to run a restaurant. Students are taught basic French procedures to improve their abilities and understanding, as well as traditional Bulgarian recipes, at the academy.
Milen Zlatev recommends a shopska salad to anyone looking for real Bulgarian cuisine. He claims, “That’s our most famous dish.” “It’s a cucumber, tomato, and white brined cheese salad from Bulgaria.” It distinguishes out, according to him, since the structure is more sour and salty than other cheeses. In his upbringing, that cheese and shopska salad was a mainstay.
Bulgarian yogurt is available as well. Traditional Bulgarian cuisines use yogurt in a variety of ways. It’s deeply rooted in Bulgarian culture and history, and it’s a must-try for anybody going through.
Regional food is also worth trying, but it’s only available in a few remote parts of the country.
Some regional specialties on the verge of extinction are being rediscovered by independent food producers and the slow food movement.
When visiting the Rhodope Mountains, you must try patatnik, a classic Bulgarian potato and cheese dish. Serve it with cheverme, which is grilled lamb cooked over an open fire.
If you can locate it, green cheese is a must-try in the village of Tcherni Vit.
It was made by a small independent manufacturer, according to Zlatev, and it appears to be a soft cheese with a soft texture and a dark green wonderful mold surface.
The Rose Valley, south of the Balkan Mountains, is known for producing rose oil (Bulgaria is one of the world’s largest exporters). The picking season is from May through June, and each year there is a Rose Festival. Apart from the beauty benefits and Instagram prospects, rose oil is being used by Bulgarian cooks in current Bulgarian cuisine. Bulgarian rose oil is used in pastries, ice cream, rose water, and marmalade, among other things.
Contemporary food trends are also being followed by Sofia’s leading eateries.
According to Zlatev, Kosmos (aka Kocmoc) is a contemporary Bulgarian restaurant that is one of the best in Sofia. A traditional meal is available on the menu, however, it is presented uniquely. Consider a “gin and tonic” pudding with lemongrass, cucumber, tonic sorbet, and gin jelly, or a spicy beef tongue with foie gras mousse, pickled sprouts, harissa, and herb mustard.
Made in Home is a restaurant that focuses on using locally sourced ingredients while still incorporating international influences. In addition, vegetarian and vegan options are available.
Andre Tokev, one of Bulgaria’s best chefs, has designed an eclectic fine dining menu at his restaurant Moments, which includes delicacies such as locally obtained pickled fish, forest mushrooms, white chocolate, and Amarula mousse, and a chocolate cake with pumpkin ice cream and yuzu tofu.
MoMa stays true to her roots, presenting traditional Bulgarian salads, grilled meats, and stews. This is where you can obtain the characteristic Bulgarian specialties like slow-baked rabbit leg and stewed lamb knuckle. MoMa, on the other hand, executes it in a unique way (you can order a local meal served in a bread bowl) and with stylish modern decor.
There’s also Cheese the Queen, a company that makes organic nut cheese while adhering to Bulgarian fermentation traditions. Gelateria Naturale (“slow ice cream”), an artisanal ice cream establishment that employs natural, local products. When the pumpkin is in season, it serves pumpkin sorbets other vegan delicacies.
Glarus, Ailyak Beer, Divo Pivo, Nosferatu Craft Beer Shop, and Kanaal in Sofia are some of the country’s microbreweries and craft beer shops.
If you happen to be in Bulgaria, try pumpkin roasted with honey and almonds. Traditional mincemeat and herb kebab is known as “Kebapche.” Banitsa is a savory breakfast pastry with yogurt, eggs, and white cheese. Alternatively, grilled meats, meatballs, and sausages are referred to as skara in Bulgarian (ask for meshana skara for a mixed grill). Ayran, a refreshing, savory yogurt drink, washes it all down.
Bulgarian wines are also excellent; the Thracian Valley is one of the world’s oldest wine regions. The cult of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, is thought to have manufactured wine here thousands of years ago.
Enotheca BENDIDA is located in Plovdiv, in the Thracian lowlands, and offers regional wines coupled with 4- and 5-course tasting menus. Several wineries, notably the Bendida and Brestovitsa wineries, are located in the nearby village of Brestovitsa. Red grape types, such as the local Mavrud, are very popular in the Thracian Valley. A little location just north of the Rhodope Mountains produces this deep red, ancient wine type.
Alternatively, head to the Valley of Roses for Red Misket (a dry white wine despite its name) or the Melnik region in the southwest for Melnik. Wine is famed in the rich hills and valleys between the Danube and the Stara Planina Balkan mountain range, and the Northern Danube Plain is especially famous for the vibrant ruby Gamza grape.