Romanian Cooking Tips


Using a heavy pot (tall is better to avoid lots of splattering) put in enough oil to cover what ever it is your frying. Oil should be very hot (345-375 degrees F). To test if the oil is hot enough simply test a piece of what is to be fried-if there are bubbles, it's ready. Also, if the oil is hot enough the food will brown on the outside quickly. If it takes more than 2-3 minutes, your temperature is too low and the food will absorb fat instead of repelling it as it cooks. It won't taste as good and will be worse for you. Once you have finished and the oil has cooled, if desired you can save it to use two or three more times. Make sure it is covered if saving it.


Using a double-boiler or the double-boiler method is very useful for a lot of things. It will slow heat almost any thick liquid and/or milk-based soup or evenly melt chocolate without scorching. If a double-boiler is not available, don't panic! Just find two pots, one that fits inside the other. The trick is for the smaller pot to be suspended in the larger pot (so it can't be so small that it just sits on the bottom of the large pot). This is easiest to achieve if the smaller pot has 2 handles, which can rest on the rim of the larger pot and hold it securely in place. Attempting to perch a one handled pot at an angle above another is a balancing act that will probably end in pain and sorrow.

Place water in the larger pot, (some recipes call for the smaller pot to sit above the water; others suggest that the smaller pot sit in the water). Be sure the water is at least an inch or two below the rim of the small pot - you don't want the boiling water to splash in. Put the food that is to be heated in the smaller pot. Place the pots over a medium flame and begin to heat up the water. Bring the water to a boil and immediately reduce the flame or remove it. The water should never boil too hard but should stay very hot at all times.

Note: If melting chocolate, make sure there is absolutely NO water in the smaller pot and try with all your might NOT to get water into the smaller pot while melting the chocolate. This is important or your chocolate will dry or curdle and will no longer be any good. The minute your chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and begin decorating or dipping away. When the chocolate becomes too thick, just place the pots over the flame to re-heat.


We don't want to go into too much detail about kitchen fires - hopefully you will never have one. But, since most of us don't have access to fire extinguishers, here are a few basic tips: If you or your clothing are on fire - don't run, STOP, DROP & ROLL, try to smother the fire. If your dish towel or oven mitt is on fire, don't wave it around. Put the fire out with water (in the sink) or by smothering the fire. In the case of a grease fire - do not use water. There are two ways to handle a grease fire, one is to smother it (put a cover on the burning pan and remove it from the heat), the other is to throw baking soda over the flames (you will need a lot). Baking soda can also be used on an electrical fire. If you have an oven fire, turn off your oven and turn off the heat/flame. These tips only apply to very small fires, if you have a significant fire, leave your apartment and get help.


There probably isn't a microwave in your kitchen so frozen burritos and microwave pizzas are not an option. As a result, it is best to make friends with the stove. In Romania, gas stoves are of two types: those which operate from direct gas lines and those which use bottled gas (butelie). Most are without the nifty little built-in pilot lights, so when striking a match to light the stove, remember that the direct gas stove has greater pressure than a stove using bottled gas, thus a greater potential for removing nose and eyebrow hairs. Less is better in this case so turn the knob to the lowest setting before lighting.  Always have your match or lighter ready before turning on the gas - leaving the gas on for more than a few seconds before lighting can result in a fire ball which can remove more than a few hairs.

If you are cooking over bottled gas, you may have very little control over your flame. High may be your only setting. In this case try to find very thick bottomed pots, or shop around for one of those nifty metal plates that separate your pot from direct contact with the flame and help to disperse the heat.

Remember the simple formula:

Small Pan + Small Flame = Small Meal

Big Pan + Big Flame + Small Meal = Disaster (kitchen fire)


Buy glass or plastic containers early on. They are rather inexpensive and will definitely be put to use. Or save the plastic containers that hold deli products.  Keep the jars for leftovers or canning, or even as drinking glasses; keep plastic bags for shopping at the market, trash liners, or storage; and keep bottles for storing filtered water, etc. Also, cut up or grind your meat and freeze it in individual serving sizes. This will invariably save you time when you cook. You can save dill and parsley for the winter by washing, trimming, patting them dry with a paper towel, then storing them in a well- packed, air-tight plastic bag. Cut off whatever you need and defrost or put directly into a soup or hot dish.


When pouring hot food items into a glass jar do one of two things to prevent the jar from cracking. Either place the blade end of a metal knife under the jar to help absorb the heat, or heat the jar up by boiling it in water first.


Can't find seaweed or cumin at your local alimentara? Check the following stores: Carrefour, Billa, Gima (Iasi), Metro, and Selgros. Kaufland is another possibility. If in Bucharest stop at La Fourmi in the Piati Unirii 1/Unirea Shopping Center to pick up goods.


It is helpful to plan ahead whenever you can and pick a handful of recipes to cook over the week. "Cooking means you don't waste time or food. It means planning a week of meals and then cooking as much as possible one day a week, and that way, dinner is half done before you get home." - Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet

This means do any necessary shopping and preparation in advance. Also, keep a good stock of many staple items. However, because bread and other items go bad quickly, or because refrigerator sizes may limit planning, you'll find that you'll be shopping more often. Keep a bag with you in case you remember something you need to buy.


Most Romanian ovens have no temperature settings and differing levels of temperature control. It will take some practice and some trial and error to learn the secrets of your oven. Do remember that cooking times and temperatures will vary depending on your stove. It can be helpful to remember that almost all recipes, cakes, casseroles, etc. use a 350-degree oven. So if you don't know, this is always your best guess. A great gift to ask for from home is an oven thermometer (try getting both Celsius and Fahrenheit). Also, remember this, when assessing a dish you are trying to bake: If it is cooking too quickly on the outside, and but is still raw on the inside, reduce the heat. If the dish is taking too long to cook, but seems to be cooking uniformly, the oven temperature is too low. You may also notice that baked goods like cakes or biscuits won't puff very much if the oven temperature is too low. Find helpful information for converting Fahrenheit to Centigrade, and estimating oven temperatures in the Measurements and Conversions section on page 210.


Don't have a rolling pin to make your favorite pie dough, cookies, or tortillas? No sweat! Substitute a tall glass bottle or jar (remove the labels) coated slightly with flour for a rolling pin.


This is especially true for smaller towns: it is recommended to buy certain food and household items when seen as they may not be in the store the next time you visit. However, always keep in mind the size of your refrigerator (or freezer) when shopping. Just remember that what's in stock on Wednesday may not be in stock again.


Smoke makes a great mosquito repellant. For those of you in the Danube Delta region or other infested areas, keep this in mind. Generally, however, smoke in the kitchen is bad, i.e. a prelude to a fire. Always make sure your handy PC given smoke detector is working.


To try to prevent things from sticking to your pots and pans, try a few of these helpful tips: coat baking dishes with butter mixed with a little oil; grease and flour any cake pans; use cornmeal or olive oil when baking breads; add a little oil or butter to water when boiling rice or pasta. For those stubborn foods, like rice, just place hot water in the pan with a little salt and let it set overnight before washing. If soaking isn't enough, sprinkle some baking soda in the pan and scrub like hell. Another option is to but Teflon - it may save you time and frustration in the kitchen.


For best results in cooking, baking, making tea and coffee etc. use filtered water. You could also opt for bottled flat water. This is not just about health, but also about flavor - you want to taste your food, not your water.