Eastern influences are everywhere in Sofia and nowhere more so than in the local cuisine.
Bulgarian food is simple, tasty and delicious - here are 7 of the tastiest local dishes to try during a trip to Sofia.
A chunky tomato, cucumber and red pepper salad topped with crumbled Bulgarian sirene (white brine cheese), during the summer months, Shopska Salad makes for a wholesome lunch dish.
Patriotically coloured, Shopska salad’s most prominent ingredients are cheese (white), cucumber (green) and tomatoes and peppers, (red) which reflect the colours of the Bulgarian national flag.
Don’t be surprised if you’re offered a glass of rakia (a brandy-like liquor) as an optional accompaniment to your salad. Locals love the fiery contrast - give it a whirl if you’re feeling adventurous.
Dairy is kind of a big deal in Bulgaria, so it’s no surprise that the essence of one of the country’s most popular soups is cold yoghurt. Tarator - a mix of yoghurt, garlic, herbs and chopped cucumber is a real summer favourite. Expect to find this refreshing dish on cafe and restaurant menus all over Sofia.
Traditionally baked in a clay pot with tomatoes and smothered in sirene cheese, Sirene Po Shopski is a bubbling, melty, marvellous mess of a dish. Mop up all those left-over juices with a hunk of crusty bread. This is comfort food at its very best.
Delicately flavoured with rose water (Bulgaria is known as the ‘land of roses’), Lokum is similar to Turkish Delight, a chewy, sugar-coated treat that makes for the perfect souvenir for anyone looking to take home a sweet reminder of Sofia.
Carnivores rejoice! Grilled meat is king in Bulgaria. Sausage-like Kebapche (meaning ‘little kebab’) are typically made from a mix of pork and beef, flavoured with black pepper, cumin and salt. For a full on feast, order with a platter of kofte meatballs and wash down with a glass of the local beer.
Although usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish, banitsa can be found in most bakeries until late afternoon. As Bulgarian snacks go, this cheesy melt-in-the-mouth pastry is a must-try. Enjoy with ayran (a salty yogurt drink) for an authentic taste of Bulgaria. If you’re visiting Sofia when it’s Christmas-time, take care not to bite into the festive coins hidden inside some banitsa pastries. Traditionally, these are added as a good luck charm - just watch your teeth!
Seeds (both sunflower and pumpkin) are something of a national obsession in Bulgaria. In Sofia, don’t be surprised to see the locals hanging out to munch on handfuls of sunflower seeds in parks and beauty spots around the city. If you want to truly immerse yourself in the local culture, take a hike up Mount Vitoysha and then wind down with a sunflower seed session as the sun sets over the cityscape below.