10 Staple Foods Of Eastern Europe You Have To Try

By Steph Wright on June 14 2020 in Food

Traditional beetroot soup borscht and dumplings with potatoes served with sour cream and parsley on a wooden table. Image credit: Daria Mladenovic/Shutterstock.com
Traditional beetroot soup borscht and dumplings with potatoes served with sour cream and parsley on a wooden table. Image credit: Daria Mladenovic/Shutterstock.com
  • Goulash is a meat stew that originates in Hungary.
  • Papanași is a Romanian and Moldovan specialty.
  • Draniki are shallow-fried potato-based pancakes from Belarus.

Foodies traveling to Europe often overlook Eastern European food. They tend to go in search of the best pizza, pasta or paella, not realizing that some of the continent's best food is found in the East. Eastern European food is hearty, satisfying, and delicious. Some of the most famous dishes include goulash, beef stroganoff, and pierogi, but there are many lesser-known dishes that are equally as mouth-watering and must be sampled when visiting Europe. Here are 10 staple foods of Eastern Europe you have to try:

10. Trdelník

Traditional Tasty Baked Trdelnik with Ice Cream in Czech Republic. Image credit: Kasakphoto/Shutterstock.com
Traditional Tasty Baked Trdelnik with Ice Cream in Czech Republic. Image credit: Kasakphoto/Shutterstock.com

Trdelník is popular in many Eastern European countries, but it is mostly found in Slovakia and Czechia. Also known as funnel cake, Trdelník is a type of dough that is wrapped around a stick and then grilled. Traditionally, the funnel-shaped cake is rolled in cinnamon, sugar, or walnuts. Trdelník is commonly sold by street vendors in Prague; each offers a choice of a range of tasty fillings such as Nutella, ice cream, or whipped cream.

9. Beef Stroganoff

A dish of beef stroganoff and rice. Image credit: AS Food studio/Shutterstock.com
A dish of beef stroganoff and rice. Image credit: AS Food studio/Shutterstock.com

This dish is found across the world, but its origins lie in Eastern Europe. Authentic beef stroganoff can be found in Russia, the birthplace of the dish. Cubes of beef are first sautéed, then covered in a mustard and broth sauce, and finished with a small amount of sour cream. Mushrooms, onions and alcohol are not part of the original recipe. Crisp potato straws are traditionally served alongside the stroganoff, or it can be eaten on its own with bread.

8. Goulash

Goulash, beef stew in cast iron pan. Image credit: Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock.com
Goulash, beef stew in cast iron pan. Image credit: Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock.com

Goulash is a meat stew that originates in Hungary. The dish consists of meat and vegetables that are seasoned with spices and cooked in water or stock. Beef, veal, pork and lamb are typically used and cuts such as shank, shin and shoulder are most common. The collagen and gelatine from the meat give the dish its rich thickness and sometimes a dash of white wine is added towards the end of the cooking time to round off the flavor. Goulash can be served with csipetke, a kind of small egg noodle, or with slices of bread. Goulash is a very comforting dish to have during the winter months.  

7. Banista

Banitsa. Image credit: Borzo/Wikimedia.org
Banitsa. Image credit: Borzo/Wikimedia.org

Banista is a Bulgarian pastry that consists of whisked eggs, natural yogurt and feta cheese placed between layers of filo pastry. The dish is then baked in an oven until golden brown. Banista is typically served at breakfast time with plain yogurt and can be eaten hot or cold. On New Year’s Eve, lucky charms or well wishes are hidden in the pastry to bestow health, happiness and success on the recipient. Although banista is usually served at Christmas and New Year, many bakeries and street food stalls in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, serve the dish all year round.

6. Draniki 

Potato pancakes, draniki. Image credit: Ermak Oksana/Shutterstock.com
Potato pancakes, draniki. Image credit: Ermak Oksana/Shutterstock.com

One of the most famous dishes of Belarus, Draniki are shallow-fried potato-based pancakes that used to be eaten for breakfast in the 19th century. Draniki are easy to make and only include four ingredients: potatoes, onion, oil and salt. Sometimes, the pancakes are stuffed with meat, but they can also be eaten with a simple hot sour cream. Draniki also makes a very good accompaniment to machanka, a Belarussian pork stew.

5. Borscht

Traditional Ukrainian Russian borscht with white beans on the bowl. Image credit: Timolina/Shutterstock.com
Traditional Ukrainian Russian borscht with white beans on the bowl. Image credit: Timolina/Shutterstock.com

Borscht, a bright red-purple beet-based soup is the national dish of a number of Eastern European countries, but it is thought to have originated in Ukraine. Traditional Ukrainian borscht is made from meat or bone stock, beets, carrots and potatoes. Tomatoes or tomato paste is then incorporated into the mixture. The flavors of borscht are sweet and sour – sugar, salt and lemon juice are sometimes added to amplify and balance the flavors. Although the soup originated in Ukraine, each state has a slightly different way of making borscht. The variations continue throughout the East of Europe, with Russia adding beef, and Siberia adding meatballs. The soup is served cold in the summer and is blended with yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk.

4. Cozonac

Slices of homemade traditional Romanian sweet bread named "cozonac", with cacao, raisins, various nuts and chocolate chips, ready to be eaten. Image credit:  Cristina.A/Shutterstock.com
Slices of homemade traditional Romanian sweet bread named "cozonac", with cacao, raisins, various nuts and chocolate chips, ready to be eaten. Image credit: Cristina.A/Shutterstock.com

Cozonac is the perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee. Originating in Romania and Bulgaria, Cozonac is a sweet leavened bread, that is dense in milk, eggs, and butter. It is common for bakers in both countries to add lemon zest to the dough; depending on the region, raisins, nuts, or rum flavoring are also added. Sometimes, a ground walnut mixture is added as a filling, which creates a swirl pattern when the loaf is cut. Cozonac is usually served at Easter time, but it can be found in many bakeries across Romania and Bulgaria.

3. Pierogi

Pierogi with meat, onions and bacon on a cast iron skillet. Image credit: Arkadiusz Fajer/Shutterstock.com
Pierogi with meat, onions and bacon on a cast iron skillet. Image credit: Arkadiusz Fajer/Shutterstock.com

Head to Poland for filled dumplings known as pierogi. The dough is a simple mixture of flour and water that is sometimes bound with an egg. It is then rolled out and cut into circles. Fillings such as fried onions, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and meat are added to the center of the circles, which are then folded over to create a crescent shape. Pierogis can also be made sweet; these are typically filled with blueberry and a sweetened farmers cheese, they are served with a sour cream and sugar mix.

2. Papanași

Papanași. Image credit: Nitu Iulian/Flickr.com
Papanași. Image credit: Nitu Iulian/Flickr.com

Papanași is a Romanian and Moldovan specialty. This sweet treat is a donut-shaped pastry that is boiled or fried, filled with a sweet soft cow’s cheese and topped with sour cream and blueberry or sour cherry reserve. You will be able to find this dessert in many restaurants in Romania and Moldova.

1. Somlói Galuska

Somloi galuska (sponge cake). Image credit: Rachel Bickley/Flickr.com
Somloi galuska (sponge cake). Image credit: Rachel Bickley/Flickr.com

Somlói Galuska, or Hungarian trifle, is a decadent dessert that will satisfy anyone’s sweet-tooth. The dish consists of three different layers of sponge cake: one plain, one with cocoa, and one mixed with walnuts. The cakes are then filled nuts and dried fruit and are topped with lashings of vanilla, chocolate, and rum and orange zest flavored sauces. The dish is finished off with a generous helping of sweet whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Making Somlói Galuska is not for the faint of heart, but the end result is undeniably worth it.

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