(18) Romania – Sarmale

Welcome to our final week of February which is our 8th week traveling by taste bud! I started out this week in Romania dreaming of roaming the Carpathian Mountains and exploring several medieval castles. Scărișoara Glacier hides underground inside a 105m (344ft) cave and Berca Mud Volcanoes spew out occasionally colorful bubbles of the earth- it feels like we are in a fantasy land!

The Carpathian Mountains. Source: Lonely Planet- Image by Michal Sleczek / Getty Images

I chose to prepare the beloved sarmale which is very representative of this country. It is believed to by Turkish in origin, however Romania has definitely put it’s mark on the dish. It consists of sauerkraut or boiled cabbage which is filled with ground pork, rice, onions, and spices. The rolls are then layered or placed side by side in boiling water along with bacon and occasionally spare ribs to cook for several hours. Tomatoes are used in various stages of this process depending on what recipe you use. The very lengthy recipe I used can be found here if you have 6+ hours to spare. There are other variations that are a little less time consuming, but it is for sure a labor of love.

I found it challenging to roll the pork mixture in the cabbage, but I was able to get two full layers as the recipe called for. I would recommend prepping as much as you can before hand so the cooking and assembly takes less time. I felt like a chicken without her head trying to juggle cooking bacon and spare ribs while prepping the cabbage and onion! Also it was very difficult to assemble the boiled cabbage leaves without the filling oozing out.. I tried to make Romania proud 😅

This dish was well seasoned combining savory and pickling flavors together. I was glad I had triumphed with this very long process, it was very satisfying to watch it come together along with the sides of polenta and topping of homemade pickled hot peppers. I will say though it came down to texture for me due to the I rated this dish lower than Ian bringing our average to 6/10. Don’t let my review scare you away, if you are motivated for a 15+ step process this might be your recipe! Up next Finland!

(9) Denmark – Frikadeller

Nyhvan, Copenhagen Denmark. Source: Moustashie

Denmark is a southern Scandinavian country composed of the Jutland Peninsula and other various islands. Because this region sits in the temperate zone, the area experiences varying weather and well-defined seasons.

Source: Why Did The Viking Age Start? – Life in Norway

Most notoriously known for it’s history of fierce, bearded, axe-wielding Vikings, Denmark is also home to some delicious food! We chose to take a crack at their traditional meatballs known as Frikadellar.

The general consensus is that Frikadellar originated from northern Germany. I found recipes throughout Germany and Scandinavia with small variations of a rather simple combination of veil, pork or beef, onions, eggs, milk, oatmeal, flour, and salt and pepper. Simply combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Allow the mixture to consolidate in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to a day. Once settled you can then form your meatballs and cook them on the stove top in butter or margarine. When sifting through recipes one may notice that these meatballs often appear more like meat patties. It’s said that the today’s hamburgers actually evolved from the frikadellar recipes of Hamburg Germany. So thank your favorite German with a “Danke”, the next time your appreciating a fine burger.

In addition to the meatballs, I made a basic gravy and mashed potatoes for a side, as well as another Danish specialty known as Rødkål- which is a red cabbage concoction that balanced this savory “meat and potatoes” kind of dish with notes of sweet and sour.

Our score for the Danish Meatballs: 7/10.

(7) Albania – Byrek

Town in the Albanian Alps. Source: Invest in Albania

Welcome to our 4th week discovering dishes from all around the world! The first meal of this week will be coming from the beautiful country of Albania. Albania is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and is mostly made up of hills and mountain sides which cities and towns are often built upon. Something I found interesting about Albania was that shaking your head means yes, and nodding you head means no.. confusing!

The wonderful meal I will be making tonight will be the traditional Bryek (pronounced “boo-rek”)- is a puff pastry filled with various fillings such as ricotta, spinach, tomatoes, and minced meat. These baked goods can have various spellings, but the ‘y’ is used in the Albanian spelling. They are thought to be influenced by the Ottoman empire and have origins in Turkish cuisine. Byreks are often enjoyed as an easy and inexpensive breakfast, but can be enjoyed any time of the day. They are almost always triangular in shape and easy to transport making them the perfect on-the-go snack!

I decided to combine a few of the above ingredients and make a vegetarian byrek filled with tomatoes, ricotta, and spinach. When researching these delights I came across this article which I used as reference. I once again did not make my own dough.. trying to save on time. 😅

We collectively rated this heavenly dish 8/10! I would love to play with the variable filling options in the future. Following Albania will be Niger..🥜