(Written in September 2010)
As we get ready to head to Romania, here are some observations on eating as a (somwhat flexible) vegan in Bulgaria:
Everywhere will have lots of salads and even the most hole-in-the-wall joints will have the two basics: Meshana Salata (tomatoes, cucumbers & roast peppers) and Shopka Salata (the same but with feta). Bob Chorba (bean soup) is also widely available, though you may want to check that it was made with vegetable broth. Sides of beans, potatoes and pickled or fresh vegetables are also very common.
Street vendors everywhere sell corn-on-the-cob, nuts and fruit. Banitsa also makes a good snack (look for windows advertising “zakuska”. Traditional banitsa or “banitsa sus cirene” is made with yogurt, cheese and egg. Apple and pumpkin varieties are also available seasonally and are usually vegan, but recipes vary so ask to be sure.
For the dairy-inclined, Bulgarian yogurt and “ayran” (a thin yogurt drink) are said to be the best in the world. They are widely available at restaurants, snack bars and street vendors. Another common drink/snack is “bo(r)za”, a thick fermented grain slurry. It’s slightly sour and tastes something like the milk at the end of a bowl of cereal. For most it’s an acquired taste, but it’s vegan!