It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and depending on how you starting your day will show how the rest of your day will continue. Every country has their own breakfast traditions, we have all heard about American pancakes, Brittish breakfast with eggs, beans, sausages and tea, and France with their croissants. As you explore Bulgaria don´t do it on an empty belly, kick-start your day with a good Bulgarian breakfast!
Banitsa- On top of the Bulgarians breakfast
Banitsa is on top of all breakfasts in Bulgaria! It is very popular and all Bulgarians love this, everywhere in the country there are special breakfast places where you can buy freshly baked banitsa and other bread. Even tho banitsa is one of the most beloved breakfast and many people are eating it regular today it hasn’t always been like this. Back in the day´s banitsa was something that was served only around Christmas and New Years Eve, and people added kusmeti in it (kusmeti is a token for luch, good fortune and charm), today the traditional bread Koledna Pitka (Bulgarian Christmas food) has carried on that tradition.
So what is banitsa? To simplify it you may say its a cheese pie, it is a filo pastry filled with sirene (Bulgarian feta cheese). There are many different way of preparing it but a simply way of making it is by mixing some egg together with sirene, sunflower oil and baking soda. After you are done with the mixing you begin with laying a couple of layers of the filo dough on top of each other, then you put some of the mix in top of it, then another layer on top of the mix, put more of the sirene mix on top of the layer and keep doing this until the mix is finished. Finish by adding two layers on top of the final mix with some sunflower oil on it, and put it in the oven, about 200 degrees for around 20 minutes. Here is a great recipe and explanation on how to prepare banitsa; How to make Banitsa.
This is a popular dish all over the Balkan peninsula, in Turkey it goes under the name; Börek, in Serbian; Gibanica, and in Greek its known as Tyropita/Bougatsa. Like I said there are many variations of preparing it, different shapes and you change some ingredients. For example to add spinach, or my mans baba (grandmother) add rise instead and call it Klin. It is very popular to drink Boza or Ayran together with the banitsa.
Boza- An Ancient Beverage
Boza is a fermented beverage that are being drank all the way from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and the whole Balkan peninsula. It is a malt drink made from wheat. The Boza has a very thick consistence and a sweet flavor and contain about 1% alcohol. Boza is an ancient beverage that goes back to the 9th millennia B.C to the old Mesopotamian and Anatolian kingdom. Boza can be found in any grocery store, usually at the bakery’s where you buying the banitsa and other freshly baked bread and at some lunch places. Bulgarians have grow up with Boza and usually like it a lot, but for foreigners it may be a more adventurous tasting experience. Speaking from my own experience, first time I tried it, I didn’t like it all but I must say it has really come to grow on me, and from time to time I really miss a glass of Boza. You have to find out by yourself, but don´t miss the opportunity to try this beverage!
If you want to make Boza yourself I strongly recommend you to visit this site; How to make Boza.
This breakfast contains warm bread with minced meat on top of it. Its very easy to make Princesses, first you mix a couple of eggs together with grated cheese, minced meat and some spices in a bowl. Put butter on the the sandwich and then spread the mix of grated cheese and minced meat on the bread. After that, put it in the bread in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees. The bread can also be grilled on a Bulgarian Party grill.
Mekitsi is a deep fried dough that´s being served together with honey, jam or marmalade, and sirene. The deep fried bread reminds a lot about the Hungarian Langos bread, my mother really likes it and she says it makes her think about Danish Pastry. The dough is made from eggs, yogurt, flour, water, salt, oil and leavening agent. After that you deep fry the dough in a high pan or pot with oil until it gets a golden color.
This breakfast reminds a bit about porridge, and the children likes this a lot. Popara is a mix of hot water/milk with pieces of bread inside together with sirene (Bulgarian feta cheese), butter and sugar/honey.
This is one of my favorite breakfasts! It reminds a lot of American pancakes actually. Its made from egg, flour, yogurt, salt, oil and bicarbonate. You mix until a thick dough and then you put small pieces of the dough in the pan and fry it until it receive a golden color. Just like the mekitisi this is served with jam, honey and sirene. This originally came from the region around the Rhodope mountains.
Ayran (Айрян) is a popular beverage on the whole Balkan, Turkey as well as in the the Middle East and Central Asia. Ayran is made from water, yogurt and salt, there are other versions where instead of salt they put sugar, but in Bulgaria the most common is to use salt. The beverage is being served cold and are in particular popular in the warm summer.
In Bulgaria there are many places where you can find special breakfast places, and especially places where you can buy just pancakes. It reminds a lot about the Frensh crepes. You add what you want on it from different jams, chocolate and bananas, but you may also pick a more salty alternative such as sirene (Bulgarian feta cheese) and Lukanka (a hard Bulgarian salami).
Pasta with Sugar
One of the biggest surprises I had the very first time I came to Bulgaria was this breakfast. This breakfast is boiled pasta with sugar and sirene on top of it. Its not very common but from time to time the Bulgarians are eating this.
There are of course much more to eat for Bulgarian breakfast, and Lukanka (hard salami) goes together with everything. Lyutenitsa (Bulgarian; лютеница) is a Bulgarian relish/chutney made from peppers, carrots, eggplant, onion, garlic, tomatoes, oil, and salt, is also popular on the breakfast table. In fact both Lyutenitsa and Lukanka goes for pretty much in the Bulgarian kitchen. Enjoy your Bulgarian Zakuska (breakfast)!
Sources for this article:
My own experiences