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I have a slight obsession with soup, it's true. I have a $9.99 set of IKEA knives and I use my parents' old blender, but I also own a hundred-dollar stock pot that I use almost every week. My passion for Romanian soup was ignited long before I arrived in the country... back home in Canada I was watching "No Reservations", and I saw Anthony Bourdain eating soup at a market stall in Maramures... I almost died on the spot. I had to have soup in Maramures! So, about six months later I found myself at Cobwobs Hostel in Sighetu Marmatiei, and noticed a sign on the wall recommending a specific type of bean soup that could be found at the central market. My dream was about to come true! I ran to the market (literally!) and searched high and low, but I couldn't find a vendor specializing in bean soup ("corba de fasole"). It's probably for the best, as most Romanian bean soup is made with a little bit of meat to enhance the flavour. Feeling a little bit dejected I took at seat in La Ilisca, a tiny sit-down restaurant within the market, and asked for a bowl of their vegetable soup. The ladies working there must have taken one look at my sad, bean soup-lacking face and poured their heart and soul into ladling, because only minutes later I was served the most delicious bowl of soup ever, along with plenty of slices of fresh, market-made bread. The soup had a rich broth, chunks of carrots and potatoes, and a generous blob of smantana (cream- in this case, like a creme fraiche) on top. My dreams of bean sopu were forgotten; in fact, in my notes I described the soup as "heavenly". Budget travelers or anyone wanting an authentic Romanian lunch should head straight to La Ilisca in Sighet's market where they can indulge in The Perfect Soup. If it's good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it's good enough for you and me!
Written Mar 6, 2011
Address: Piata Agroalimentara
Consuela Restaurant came highly recommended by the owner of Cobwobs Hostel. In the end our meal turned into something of a comedy of errors, as they seemed to be lacking all of the ingredients necessary to make the vegetarian pizza listed on their menu. Yes, the pizza I was served was good (and true to traditional Neapolitan style), but when a restaurant is out of that many ingredients, and there are only one or two other diners at dinner time, you kind of start to wonder if there are better choices elsewhere in town! I have a feeling Consuela might be best visited at lunch, when it's likely that workers from all the nearby factories would stop by for lunch.
Written Mar 6, 2011
Address: Str. Titulescu @ Str. Primaverii
Throught Sighet you'll find a numerous bakeries dishing up hot, fresh placinta. That's placinta, not placenta (though one look and you'll be able to guess where the name came from!). Placinta roughly translates to "pancakes", but in fact they are puffy pieces of deep-fried pastry, much like Hungarian langos, that are filled with sweet or savoury ingredients. If you're hitching a ride to Sapanta there's an excellent bakery at the "autostop" from which you'll depart, there are also placinta stands inside the central market. I had two favorite flavours: marmalade (in other words, whatever jam happened to be fresh and local), or "cu branza", which means "with cheese"- a slightly-sweet, soft, mild cheese. Placinta must be eaten "hot out of the fryer", so they're a perfect way to start your day or a good mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Updated Mar 6, 2011
Sighet is a city that knows how to do "mancare de post" right. Mancare de post is the vegan food that Orthodox Romanians often eat during periods of fasting, which often occur every Wednesday and Sunday, but can also stretch on for weeks at a time before important religious holidays. Sure, David's Pub has lots of meaty entrees featuring local preparations of meat and poultry, but I was drawn to their menu of vegan and vegetarian choices. Prices were so low that I thought I'd order a few things just to sample. I received grilled vegetables (not great), bean soup (amazing) and a potato pancake that defies description. It was like a heart attack on a plate... cheese, cheese and more cheese, potato, potato and more potato, and cream, cream and more cream. It was so delicious it was scary. Service was fine and the bill for my meal (including THREE dishes and a glass of wine) cost less than ten US dollars.
Updated Mar 6, 2011
Address: Str. Mihali de Apsa #1