A Brief History of Romanian Polenta

Bulz cu ou
Bulz cu ou | © Nicubun / Wikimedia Commons
Georgeta Gheorghe

Locally known as mămăligă, polenta is a staple dish of Romanian cuisine with a special place in the country’s popular culture. Humble yet hearty, this creamy, bright yellow dish made of cornmeal is an easy-to-make comfort food Romanians enjoy eating year round. Find out more about this highly popular dish, whose appeal lies in its simplicity.
Not surprisingly, in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, solicitor Jonathan Harker, even before his fateful meeting with the Count, gets acquainted with “a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was mămăligă.” When traveling to Romania, chances are you too will come across polenta when ordering one of your first meals.

Mămăligă

How to Make it

Long before making its way into even the poshest of restaurants, polenta was the food of peasants and shepherds, who would cook it everywhere, even high up on the mountains. That is why, it involves very basic ingredients and a very simple cooking method. Although recipes vary, they invariably involve boiling cornmeal, about four times more water, and salt, while stirring continuously with either a wooden spoon or a wire whisk. Traditionally, polenta is cooked in a deep cast iron pot, but practically any heavy bottom pot will do. When cooked for longer to make it thicker, polenta can be a substitute for bread. Just flip the pot while the polenta is still hot and the result will be a golden sun disc on a plate, which is sliced using a string. Creamier polenta is served using a spoon.

Sarmale cu mămăligă

Polenta can be found in nearly every restaurant serving Romanian food. At home, Romanians usually serve it on a round wooden plate with a handle and place it in the middle of the table. In restaurants, you can order it as a stand alone dish called mămăligă cu brânză și smântână, consisting of polenta served together with cheese and sour cream, or as a side-dish. Typically, it is served alongside sarmale, Romanian cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice, tochitură, a stew combining beef or pork meat and offal with tomato sauce, or alongside fish dishes. Another popular dish is bulz, traditionally a polenta ball stuffed with cheese that is fried, grilled or baked in the oven and served alongside meat and fried eggs.

The rules of eating this unpretentious food are few but make sure you only use a fork and always serve it steaming hot.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article