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SALADS
Bulgarians like their salads: a salad and rakia (Bulgarian spirit - schnapps usually made from grapes) are the obligatory start to the meal. This stage of the meal can be a very drawn-out process lasting up to an hour.

  • The national dish is 'shopska salad', a tasty mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions (and occasionally roasted peppers) topped by 'sirene'(white brined cheese).
  • Another distinctive salad is 'snezhanka', consisting of yogurt, cucumbers and garlic.
  • 'Kyopulo'- eggplant salad, roasted aubergines, peppers, loads of garlic, parsley - Bulgarian cuisine benefits from Turkish influences.

SOUPS
Bulgarian cuisine tends to be oriented toward meat and potatoes, but vegetarians needn't worry as several of the more popular dishes are cheese-based. Soups are also a very important element in the Bulgarian menu.

  • 'bob chorba'- traditional bean soup with plenty of herbs;
  • 'shkembe chorba'- tripe soup with garlic, vinegar and chilli, quite tasty if you can bring yourself to try it;
  • 'tarator'- cold yoghurt and cucumber soup.

MEAT
Bulgarians like their meat - mainly pork (svinsko), veal (teleshko) and chicken (pile)- grilled, fried or as a stew. Influences of its neighbors, Turkey and Greece are also present in dishes such as 'sarmi' (stuffed vine leaves) and 'moussaka'.

  • Among the most flavorful meat and vegetable dishes are those baked in covered clay pots, such as 'kapama' and 'kavarma'.
  • 'gyuvech'- stewed chunks of vegetables and lamb;
  • 'sarmi' - rice and meat wrapped in grape leaves or stuffed vine leaves
  • Grilled spicy meatballs 'koufte' and 'kebabche' are fast-food standbys:
    'kyufteta'- spicy meat balls/ hamburgers;
    'kebapcheta'- spicy mince meat, sausage shaped, grilled.

FISH:
  • The Black Sea provides some 26 varieties of fish, the tastiest of which is bluefish - 'lefer';
  • the best of the freshwater varieties, raised locally on fish farms, is trout - 'pusturva'.
VEGETARIAN DISHES
During the summer, the outdoor food markets are a virtual cornucopia of native fresh fruits and vegetables; out-of-season produce and citrus fruits are imported from Greece and Turkey.

Usually you can find the following but if all else fails try a selection of starters or a combination salad (a plate of various salads):

  • 'kashkaval (or sirene) pane'- fried yellow (or white) cheese;
  • 'chushki byurek'- fried peppers stuffed with egg and cheese;
  • 'sirene po shopski'- white cheese, egg, tomatoes and peppers baked in a pot.
  • When ordering a main course in a restaurant, check if it comes with 'garnitura' (potatos or veg) - usually you have to order side dishes extra.

DESSERTS
Desserts tend to be overly sweet pastries and cream-filled cakes, but crepe-like pancakes (palichinki) filled with figs (smokini) are a good alternative.
  • Bulgarian cuisine isn't strong on desserts, most restaurants offer only 'pancakes' or 'creme caramel'.
  • Cafes usually have a good selection of pastries and cakes.
  • The 'garash torta' is the Bulgarian equivalent of the Sacher Torte, made from eggs, walnuts and cocoa.
SNACK & BREAKFAST
Snacks (zakuska) are available all over town in tiny shops or from stands on the street. A popular snack and breakfast item is 'banitsa', baked pastry filled with cheese(and sometimes leeks or spinach), washed down by 'boza', a non-alcoholic malted beverage that dates back several centuries.

  • 'gevrek'- like a very dry bagel, sold from big bags on street corners;
  • 'kifla'- croissant usually filled with jam;
  • 'piroshka'- dough stick filled with white cheese and fried.

DRINK
The national spirit, 'rakia', is a fiery brandy ritually consumed with a variety of appetizers (meze). Experiment with different brands, several of which produce 'otlezhala', a matured rakia.

Bulgarian beers such as Astika, Zagorka and Kamenitsa are all very continental in their appeal and much cheaper than imported beers. Be wary with spirits, as there is a lot of fake stuff on the market. If it in any way tastes strange, don't drink it. By the way, the Bulgarian for cheers is 'Nazdrave!'

Bulgarian wines are internationally renowned and one of the country's prime exports. Among the whites, Chardonnay and the fruity Traminer are distinctive. In addition to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Bulgaria boasts two extremely fine grape strains of their own, Melnik and Mavrud, a dark wine cultivated by the ancient Thracians. The fame of Bulgarian wine speaks for itself. It is inexpensive and good.

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