Food » Europe »
Eastern Europe » Moldova »
Food, Dining, & Drinks
Moldova was most likely heavily forested in its pre-history and due to this, along
with the ideal weather and soil in the region, plant and animal life was ever present.
Berries, small fruits, nuts, and mushrooms were common on the forest floors, all
of which made great food sources. The animals present also made up a part of the
diet, but most of this was in the form of small mammals and anything else that could
be caught. There is, however a notable lack of fish and other sea life in the country.
The first great influence came with the migrating or traded animals that are still
present in the region today. As people settled the region and as other people passed
though, they brought with them new foods, but more importantly new animals. Domestication
and breeding animals became more common and the variety of animals and animal byproducts
also expanded. These meats and dairy products became a more significant diet source,
although they were expensive and rarely did the average Moldovan feast on meat,
milk, or cheese until recent times. Among the early animals to arrive, the most
important then and today were sheep, cattle, and chicken.
After or perhaps during this same time, the ancient Greeks
colonized the Black Sea coast a couple thousand years ago and their influence and
trade to the region brought certain ingredients and foods to modern-day
Moldova. Without many preservation methods at the time, the most significant
contributions to the diet of the locals were additions in the form of herbs, olive
oil, and some fruits. All people at this time could only eat what was fresh and
locally available so the introduction and planting of these foods is what has lasted
to the present. Items like fish and other sea food found commonly in the Greek diet
didn't make it to Moldova since these ingredients were not available in the
After the discovery of the Americas in the late 1400s, a number of ingredients from
there arrived to Moldova and Europe
as a whole. The most important of these ingredients in Moldova was corn (maize).
The Moldovan people use this food heavily and today one of their staple foods, mamaliga
is made from cornmeal. There were many other ingredients introduced from the Americas
as well, but none with as great an influence in Moldova;
some of these other ingredients are potatoes, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.
Other influences primarily came from the country's foreign occupiers. This begins
with the Ottoman Turks, but they left few significant
or lasting effects on the culinary front. The Russians,
Ukrainians, and Jews also settled in or ruled over the
region and each left certain foods or cooking techniques, but again few of note.
Of course, most of the ethnic Russians and Ukrainians eat an entirely Russian or
Ukrainian diet, however this has not truly affected what most of the ethnic
Moldovans eat other than adding individual dishes.
Under Soviet influence, one of the greatest changes to Moldovan
food occurred when the Soviets introduced and encouraged the heavy use of pesticides
and fertilizers. These introductions prevented animals, primarily insects, from
destroying a year's crop, while also increasing output due to the fertilizers.
These changes have led to greater produce output year to year, but have also hurt
the water supply as many of the fertilizers have run off into the rivers.
In fairly modern history the influence of machinery, food storage techniques, and
mass production have influenced Moldova's food, but
not with the impact most European countries have experienced.
There are now quick service restaurants, frozen foods, and more, but for much of
the population these are either inaccessible or too expensive so have not truly
affected the diet as a whole. Despite this, people in the larger cities now have
access to these foods. Likewise, foreign ethnic foods have tried to make an entrance,
but have little to no effect outside Chisinau and perhaps a couple other large cities.
More than anything, these new technologies have increased the amount of meats people
eat, but has changed little else.
Despite the past influences, Moldovan food still remains
primarily local, focused on fruits, vegetables, and limited meats. This is partly
due to a love for this historic foods and flavor but is also due to a lack of money
and access, meaning they are essentially confined to these foods.
Bread: commonly served with many dishes, but not typically served
when mamaliga is served
Mamaliga: cornmeal boiled in salt water until it's
mushy; this is served with nearly every traditional meal as a base or side
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Brinza: a very popular sheep cheese found in or with many dishes
Placinte: pastries shaped like pies that are usually topped
with cheese, potatoes, or fruit
The Moldovans are somewhat formal in many ways and this
includes dining. Dress conservatively, but more on the formal side and arrive on
time if eating with locals. Some households may request that you leave your shoes
at the door, so if you see shoes there, take them off to save the host an awkward
After you're shown a seat, wait to sit until everyone else sits down. You'll
probably be served a number of courses, generally beginning with soup and the words
pofta buna (good appetite). Leave your napkin on the table while eating,
keep your hands within sight, and dine in the continental style, which means you
keep the knife in the right hand and fork in your left.
If you finish your plate, you will surely be offered a second and third helping.
Turn down this food at first; only after your host's insistence should you succumb
to their offerings. If you truly are done, place your knife and fork together in
the 5:25 position.
If eating at a restaurant, the inviter is expected to pay for everyone, but you
should offer to assist, an offer that will most likely be turned down. Tipping is
not common in Moldova and after experiencing the standard
poor service nearly everywhere you won't be inclined to tip anyway. The only
exception to this rule is in nice restaurants catered to foreigners in Chisinau
(of which there are only about five). Service in these restaurants substantially
improves and tips are expected in the form of about 10% for a good meal with excellent
service. In local restaurants, if service is good rounding up is a nice gesture
and not completely uncommon among the locals.
If your host is an ethnic Ukrainian or
Russian, your best course of action is to follow the advice on the
Ukrainian Food page or the Russian Food
Celebrations & Events
The only real holiday in Moldova that is celebrated with
specific foods is Christmas. During the Christmas season (in Moldova Christmas is
celebrated January 7-8) there are a few popular dishes and traditions when it comes
to dining. One of the staple foods during this season is sarma, which was
originally a Turkish dish known as dolma; sarma
consists of meat, grains, and spices stuffed in grape or cabbage leaves. Other popular
dishes during Christmas include pilaf, chicken, pastries, cake, cheeses, fruits,
and nuts. In general, there is an incredible variety of foods during Christmas.
For other celebrations, such as birthdays, weddings, National Day (August 27), and
Easter, the one consistency is the vast amounts of food served, but the particular
foods offered are more dependent on personal tastes.
Moldova's Top Culinary Cities:
-The food in Chisinau offers the best variety,
highest quality, and most authentic Moldovan foods
-Tiraspol is the best place to try authentic
Russian and Ukrainian foods
Moldova isn't known for their non-alcoholic drinks;
in fact their only true claim to something interesting is compote, which
is essentially just fruit-flavored water and not original to Moldova, although it
is popular in the country. Beyond this, most popular international beverages are
available in Moldova, including soft drinks, coffee, tea, milk, and juices, although
none have any particular cultural significance.
Despite the world's lack of recognition, Moldova
produces some fantastic red wines and cognacs. Unfortunately for those outside of
Moldova, the country doesn't impose any quality control measures so most of
their alcoholic exports are of poor quality. A couple of the larger vineyards have
self-imposed quality control (including Cricova
and Milestii Mici), creating great wines,
sparkling red wines, and cognacs with consistently high and predictably quality.
The best vintages from Moldova are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and mixes of the two.
Many families also have a small plot for grapes and each fall (autumn) they make
wine and store it in wood barrels for about half a year. If you arrive between late
winter and summer many families can be found bottling their own homemade wines using
family recipes. Like the non-alcoholic drinks, hard liquors, beers, and other alcoholic
beverages are available in Moldova, but again none have any cultural significance.
There is no consensus on the cleanliness of the tap water in
Moldova. Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink, but in some
areas the water quality is poorer and perhaps unsafe, so should be avoided. The
best course of action is to check with locals for the cleanliness of the local water
or be extra cautious and avoid the tap water entirely. If you do decide to drink
the tap water, remember that many people may have trouble adjusting to the local
water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.
Be aware that most fruits, salads, and ice were washed with or made from the local
water so be cautious of these foods if you decide to avoid the tap water.
Moldova's Top Places for a Drink:
-The drink options in Chisinau are the most
varied, especially at western-styled restaurants
-Take a wine tour at either Cricova or
Milestii Mici for the country's best wines
-Go on a tour and tasting at Kvint Wine & Cognac Distillery (stick with the
cognac) in Tiraspol
● Moldova ● Location &
Geography ● History & Background
● Culture & Identity ●