TED Translators culture series: local food with Oana Ramona Fagaras

Stuffed cabbage with meat and rice.

We’re switching gears in this third installment of our culture series to share one of our translator’s favorite local dishes with you. We recently chatted with TED Translator Oana Ramona Fagaras about sarmale, traditional Romanian cabbage rolls that are a Christmastime staple but delicious any time of year.

In addition to sour cabbage, sarmale are typically filled with rice and either pork or beef, and then topped with sour cream. There are several variations of the dish throughout Romania—sans rice or with bacon, for example—but whatever the combination of ingredients, sarmale are, as Oana told us, “a must-have every Christmas.”

“This dish is an important part of Romanian culinary culture,” Oana explained, “because it’s one of the few in the country that continue to be passed down from generation to generation in many families, often without any change to the families’ respective recipes. Making sarmale every Christmas, then, is a mother-daughter bonding ritual of sorts; when I was younger, just before the holiday each year, I’d spend hours in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother as they taught me how to make their version of the perfect rolls. We’d always turn out 80 to a hundred pieces, because when it comes to sarmale a little bit is never enough.”

Got a jones for sarmale now? Check out this recipe and try your own hand at cooking a batch. Poftă bună!

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