Gluten-Free in Bulgaria. No, really!

This entry is coming to you from the lovely city of Sophia, the capital of Bulgaria! It’s absolutely beautiful. The people are wonderful, the culture is steeped in tradition, and the food is absolutely amazing! The highlight of my trips here always involve sampling the shopska salads at the local restaurants.

Unlike a typical salad, the basic shopska salad uses no lettuce. Instead, it begins with tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese. It should be noted that if you’re in Bulgaria, that cheese comes in two varieties as far as the menus for travelers are concerned: yellow cheese and white cheese. The yellow cheese is similar to muenster cheese and is more cream in color than the annatto yellow that most yellow cheeses come in. Yellow cheese also goes by the name „Kashkaval“ but most menus in Bulgaria simply refer to it as yellow cheese for the ease of foreigners.

The white cheese, or „sirene“ , as the Bulgarians call it, is actually very similar to feta cheese. You can find it in specialty cheese shops under the name „Bulgarian Feta.“ It has a stronger, tangier taste than regular Greek feta and is made of goats milk, which lends to its creamy texture. The white cheese is what adds the magic to the shopska salad.

(White cheese is also heavenly when melted over „Pareejehne kartofee“ or „French Fries“. The taste is similar to a calzone if you ask me. Pure heaven!) – Moderation of course is key if you’re watching your weight.)

Each restaurant gives the shopska salad its own personality. The salads all start with a base of cucumbers & tomatoes chopped into bite size pieces. Then one or more of the following are added, depending on on the establishment: onions, roasted peppers, raw peppers, black olives, kalamata olives, & Italian parsley. The final touch, regardless of of what’s stacked on top of the tomato and cucumber base, is a heavenly mound of shredded, snowy white Bulgarian feta, a kiss of vinegar, & a splash of a good olive oil.

You could add salt and pepper, but if you have the fortune of eating a shopska salad in Bulgaria, you’ll find that the vegetables here are so flavorful, that the salt & pepper would probably just get lost in the sea of vegetable goodness.

So if you’re in Bulgaria and want to find something that’s safe to eat if you have a wheat sensitivity, the shopska salad is the way to go. The nice thing about this dish is that you can make it to liven up your normal routine in your own kitchen without having to travel to Bulgaria. It’s a fast, simple dish, and is absolutely delicious.

Bon appétit!

Check out pictures of the Shopska Salads here:

Може да преведете писмото тук http://translate.google.com/#

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/SyntonicGarden/view/gluten-free-in-bulgaria-no-really-133540

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Нова информация от 5 септември!

Момичето е видяло копието на нейната статия и ни е отговорила:

Dobar den, Kalin!

I was searching for one of my posts and stumbled across your page. I am the author of the „Gluten-Free in Bulgaria, No, really!“ article and am flattered that you would include my work on your page! (Thanks for the credit too.) I travel to Bulgaria periodically for my job and am glad to see that there’s an increasing awareness of gluten-sensitivities in one of my favorite countries. Love your page!

I’ve since changed the name of the original blog that had the pictures, so I updated the link that your page initially points to (myfitnesspal). I had started the blog, didn’t think anyone would read it, changed the name, and then put it aside. Here’s the link to the updated post, if you’re curious about the pictures. The first salad is from Victoria and the second is from Coffee House.

The reason I’m writing is because I would love to learn more about traditional Bulgarian dishes that tend to be gluten-free. It’s such a hard concept for me to even explain to people in English, that I don’t even try to explain with my very limited knowledge of Bulgarian.  When I tell people here, they ask me if I can eat Whole Wheat instead, because of the perception that it’s healthier.

I also want to ask if you knew of any restaurants in the Sofia area that either had celiac-friendly menus or had traditional BG food that was naturally gluten-free. While I love my salads and my fries with cheese, I do like to try other foods as well. So far, the only place that I know that frequently has gluten-free dishes is  „Sun Moon“ (Sluneceluna) which is within walking distance of Vitosha. Sometimes they even have gluten-free desserts!

Mnogo blagodarya, again for sharing my post. I hope it helps others who may be visiting your wonderful country. I wouldn’t want them to miss out on the amazing food. 🙂

I hope to hear from you soon!

Ciao!

-Mave („Syntonic Garden“)