Every time I come back to Bucharest after a long absence I go through the same ritual of doing the things I’ve been missing while away: meet with friends & family, drop by my favorite bookstore to see the new releases, eat my favorite Romanian dishes. Which was why I couldn’t wait to get to Bucharest at the end of December to have a plate of the dish shown in today’s photo. The dish is called “sarmale” (plural) or “sarma” (singular), and if you were visiting Romania and asked someone to recommend you something traditional you would probably be told to try this dish. While considered traditional, sarmale is not originally Romanian and variations of the dish exits, according to this article on wikipedia, “in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire from the Middle East to the Balkans and Central Europe”. Sarmale consist of grape or cabbage leaves rolled around a filling usually based on minced meat. There’s also a “vegan” version of the dish in which the filling is made of rice and which people usually eat when fasting before religious holidays. In Romania sarmale is usually served with polenta (mămăligă in Romanian) and sour cream or yogurt and is traditionally served for Christmas and New Year. And since I arrived in Bucharest the day before Christmas you can imagine that by now I’ve had my share of sarmale. Pretty yummy but I probably won’t feel like eating it again for the next month or two.