Why Bulgaria is worth visiting for the food

Why Bulgaria is worth visiting for the food

When I saw £24 return flights with RyanAir from Liverpool to Sofia I knew it was a great opportunity for a trip. I hadn’t visited the Balkans before so I didn’t know what to expect.

I visited in January and it was very cold and the days were short. However, I soon discovered their traditional food, which more than made up for the cold weather.

Below is a list of must try food and drink when in Bulgaria.

1) Banitsa

This is a traditional Bulgarian food made of savoury pastry with cheese, spinach, ham or leek filling.

Large banitsa at a bakery in Sofia Bulgaria
Large banitsa at a bakery in Sofia

It’s a good snack when you’re on the move in Bulgaria, especially when you need something warm in the winter and they’re available from most bakeries. While this pastry isn’t the healthiest, I really enjoyed it.

Cheese and ham banitsa in Sofia Bulgaria
Cheese and ham banitsa

2) Rakia

My trip to Bulgaria coincided with the Balkan Rakia and Spirits Festival held at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. Rakia is a fruit brandy popular in Eastern Europe. It’s also Bulgaria’s national alcoholic drink.

Balkan Rakia and Spirits Festival in Sofia Bulgaria
Balkan Rakia and Spirits Festival

I grabbed a glass and went round the room to start tasting.

First up was peach rakia. I took a small sip and felt it burn my mouth. I then tried some cherry rakia and this was also hard to drink. Which was a shame as I loved cherry vodka (see Krakow, Poland). I finally tried the most popular type of rakia – grape  – and I found this quite pleasant to drink. It didn’t have such a burning sensation.

Sofia Bulgaria Aristocrat grape rakia
Aristocrat grape rakia

I continued around the Rakia and Spirits Festival and tried vodka, gin and ouzo. I found the ouzo delicious.

Ouzo 12
Ouzo 12

3) Shopska Salad (Bulgarian Salad)

This salad is made of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, grated feta cheese and seasoned with salt and olive oil. Salads are a typical starter dish in Bulgaria.

When I was in Sofia I wanted to try a traditional Bulgarian meal. I went to Hadjidraganov’s Houses Restaurant in the centre of Sofia. It was inside a restored 19th century house and it had an authentic cosy interior which felt like being back in time.

Hadjidraganov's Houses Restaurant
Hadjidraganov’s Houses Restaurant

I was keen to try Bulgarian wine so I ordered half a carafe of the house red wine. It was really nice and I could have drunk more.

Hadjidraganov's Houses Restaurant
Shopska Salad

4) Kebapche 

The main course was a selection of meat, including kebapche, grilled minced meat, pork and beef, with spices formed into long cylindrical shape.

Hadjidraganov's Houses Restaurant
Pastirska sofra

On the side we had freshly baked white bread.

If you want more meat then try Meshana skara  – mixed grill in Bulgaria.

5) Tarator

Tarator is cold cucumber soup made of yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill.

Bulgarians love their yogurt and I found theirs had a distinctive taste. The consistency was runny and it tasted sour but it’s very healthy for you. Tarator is typically a summer food as it’s meant to be refreshing. However, I found it sharp and salty, something I wouldn’t try again.

Tarator - cold cucumber soup in Sofia Bulgaria
Tarator – cold cucumber soup

6) Rosette macaroons

The Rose Valley in Bulgaria produces 85% of the world’s rose oil. In Sofia I saw rose oil beauty products everywhere. However, I was more interested in the rose flavoured food products.

I visited Chez Fefe and had some of their delicious macaroons. The flavour that stuck out was the Rosette (rose) flavoured macaroons. I recommend anyone with a sweet tooth to give these a try.

Macaroons in Riga

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