The culinary world of Northwestern Bulgaria
Northwestern Bulgaria is surrounded by the peaks of Stara Planina and the picturesque Danube and Iskar rivers.
The hilly Zlaten Rog and the endless expanse of the Zlatia along the Danube have the most fertile black soil. The mountainous part of the Northwest is named Torlakia, supposedly coming from “torlo” – round herd pens. This ethnographic group inhabits a fairly vast area in the Northwest of the country – the districts of Vidin, Montana, Berkovitsa, but it also covers the some of the areas bordering Serbia.
Torlakia’s people are known for cattle herding and their cuisine is full of dairy products. Authentic Torlakia cuisines can best be experienced at a Turlaki festival. The biggest of which is in the Chuprene village In early June. “Kada kum prase e ti vrechu” is Torlaki saying that roughly translates to “Take what you are being offered without dallying”
Be sure to try the region’s iconic wine – Gumza. Gumza is a specific local genus (mostly around Vidin, Novo Selo, Pavlikeni and Suhindol), from which various red table and dessert wines are drawn. They are light and harmonious, with a lively, although not very dense ruby color, a pleasant fruity aroma of small red fruits, and a soft and light structure.
The Turlashka banitsa is one of the most iconic dishes of the region. Made with just flour, eggs, salt and water. The dough is divided and rolled out into squares to be baked on the top of a wood-burning stove. While a filling of cheese, walnuts or beetroot, spinach, leeks and onions, and a light brush of grease on top, compliments the flavor of the pastry.
A specific variety of this dish, with goat cheese and eggs, is a specialty of Chiprovtsi.
Bel muj – a classic dish composed of unsalted cheese, milk and flour, heated until it all melts together. Legend has it that local villagers wanted to offer St. Peter some of their cheese but the hot summer day had melted it. The Saint mixed in a dash of flour and so began this delicious tradition.
Kosacho kiselo – a cold and refreshing summer soup featuring dried or roasted peppers (the spicier the better), finely chopped cucumber, garlic and dill, seasoned with salt, vinegar and sugar, and left to infuse cold water over several hours.
Lyutika – a traditional dish of roasted cherry-peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic.
Ribena chorba – traditional for the Vlach villages from Zlaten Rog region, near the Danube. It is prepared from fresh fish baked on an open fire and mixed with a clear vegetable broth.
Stuffed peppers and sarmi – A variety of peppers, cabbage and vine leaves, stuffed with rice and other vegetables. Meat versions are traditionally reserved only for special celebrations.
Gnyeteni chushki – bean stuffed peppers with a special spice blend.
Trahana – an assortment of boiled and ground tomatoes, red peppers, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, quince, apple, and dill, mixed with leaven and flour, creates this appetizing treat, often had with hot butter and cheese.
There is also no shortage of baked delights in the rich Zlatia region – breads, pies, Easter cakes, the list goes on and on.