Ciorba Taranesc is a Romanian dish. If you have seen my other blog, I blogged about making just plain ciorba once. If you have eaten borsch, ciorba and borsch are the same thing, a sour soup. The Romanians in Transylvania, where I lived, call it ciorba, but in the north up by the Ukraine, they call it borsch because the Ukrainians also eat this and call it borsch. There are many different kinds of ciorba. Ciorba taranesc translated into English would be peasant’s soup. If you read about the Romanian people, the people who write about them usually say they area peasant people. However, there are many different kinds of Romanians from college professors, to doctors, to violinists, to farmers. If you go to the village in Romania, there are many, many farmers. When they call someone a peasant in Romania, they are referring to the farmers or the shepherds who stay in the fields with the sheep 24/7.
Just a little more than 20 years ago, the Romanians had a revolution and threw the Communists out of power in their country. One of the major reasons was because there was no food in the shops. However, the Romanians were resourceful, and they always had food even if it wasn’t in the shops. If they didn’t live in the country like a professor or a doctor, they still went to the country every weekend to tend to their garden. Most Romanians are avid gardeners. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have been able to eat when the Communists were in power. The people in the country in Romania are very respected even though they are called peasants because they always have what they need. People from the cities visit them to find what they need and buy it from them. One woman who I visited in a village close to Sibiu, where I lived, was so proud of herself because she made everything herself right down to raising sugar beets to make sugar, to wheat to grind and make flour, to milking a cow and making her own butter and cheese. They don’t just raise gardens. The Communists couldn’t get the best of them, I was very impressed when I visited that lady.
The first time I heard a Romanian refer to the people in the village as “peasants,” I felt kind of uncomfortable and almost insulted to have a friend who would talk about village people like that. After all, I am American, and we don’t believe in a big separation of classes. However, there is that separation in Romania, and no one thinks anything about it. It is normal to call the people in the village “peasants” in Romania, and it doesn’t mean they disrespect them any. It is just their station in life, a word they all understand to describe who they are talking about.
Romanians eat a lot of soup. When they learned that I cooked a meal and didn’t add soup, someone said, “What wrong? Is it too hard to make soup too?” They eat soup everyday. When they fix a nice meal, they always serve it in courses, and soup is one of the courses. When we were there, it was right after Communism was thrown out, and they were trying to adapt to the new situation. There were no microwave ovens. Many Romanian women cooked all day Saturday, went to work all through the week, and then just heated the food up when they got home from work. Soup is easily heated. If it is winter time in Romania, it is normal to see a pot of soup with the lid on sitting on the steps of a house in the village. They used the cold as a kind of refrigerator rather than plugging the fridge in and paying the bill. The kind of soup I made today is chalked full of vitamins. Even if there was nothing in the stores and the women didn’t have many modern conveniences, the people were getting their vitamins anyway.
I began with pork because there was lots of pork being eaten in Romania. It was the most popular meat. However, you can use whatever kind of meat you want for this kind of soup. The pork I bought was cut into strips because I bought it here in Korea where they cut things ups in ways that we don’t usually use. I needed the meat to be in bite sized pieces, so I cut those strips up into bite sized pieces.
Next, the Romanians just put the pork directly in the pan and boil it as is. However, I am still American, and I have a tendency to do things the American way. I put a little cooking oil in the bottom of my pan and browned the pieces of pork first. After that, I added 6 cups of water and put the lid on the pan to let the pork boil
.While the pork began to boil, I began preparing my vegetables. What my neighbor in Romania told me is to make this soup, you just get all the vegetables you can find. I happen to have a lot of vegetables in my fridge right now, and that is why I thought to make this soup. I got out potato, carrot, cucumber, green bean, tomato, and cucumber. The “peasants” in Romania go to their garden and bring all the vegetables they can find when they want to make this soup.
First, I peeled and cut up the potatoes because I know potatoes take longer to cook than anything else. I put the potatoes in the water with the pork.
Next, I peeled and cut up the carrot because I know carrots take a long time to cook. However, I didn’t want to put the carrot in the soup yet because with my experience with carrots, they are sweet and have a tendency to make everything sweet if you add them and cook them in soup or stew. I decided to put the carrots in the microwave to get them soft and add them last. I put the carrot pieces in a small bowl, put a few drops of water in the bowl, and covered it with plastic wrap. I put it in the microwave for 6 minutes, and the carrots were soft.
Next, I decided I should put the green beans in because they were frozen. I didn’t throw them in whole because I knew people would be using a spoon to eat the soup, so they needed the green beans to be in smaller pieces. I cut the beans in half and then put them in the soup.
After that, I decided I should add the cucumber. As I said in a previous blog, I have heard that we shouldn’t completely cut the skins off the cucumbers because without skins, they can give us stomach problems, so I just cut a little of the skin off in long strips. I then sliced the cucumbers up so they were bite sized pieces and put them in the soup.
Next, I cut off a slice of cabbage. I cut the cabbage up and added it to the soup. the last thing I added was tomato. I cut the tomato up in small pieces and added it to the soup. I put the lid on and then went in search of my condiments.
Of course, it will need salt to taste. It also needs something to make it sour. My neighbor in Transylvania always used vinegar, but my Romanian friend here uses lemon juice. If you have a problem with your sugar level getting too high, the vinegar is really good for you. I have heard that if you take a little vinegar everyday, you can lower your blood sugar. However, my daughter just bought me some lemon juice the other day, and I like the idea of lemon juice, so I decided to use lemon juice. Perhaps it could be good for your sugar level too, but I don’t know. Now, one of the problems we have at our house is that my Korean son in law doesn’t like anything sour. He hardly eats kimchee, the thing all Koreans love, because he doesn’t like the sour taste, they use too much chili spice, and the cabbage seems dead to him because it is limp. The fact that he doesn’t like sour things makes it hard to feed some Romanian dishes like this to him. However, I have a solution. I wait to put the vinegar or lemon juice in until after he has gotten what he wants. He likes to get a bowl of soup and then put soy sauce in it, and he says he has made it oriental.
The other condiment I hunted down was parsley. My Romanian friend here in Korea grew up in a village in Romania, and she insists that when she uses parsley, it must be fresh parsley. However, I feel it is inconvenient to always try to keep fresh parsley if I don’t have a garden, so I use dried parsley.
After I have hunted down my condiments, I put the salt in the soup and the parsley. I check the potatoes, and they are soft. I take the carrots from the microwave, and they are soft. I add them to the soup. I let the soup boil a couple more minutes to let the parsley flavor get into the soup. I let my son in law serve himself a bowl that he can add soy sauce to, and then I add some lemon juice to taste. All the condiments are to taste. If it doesn’t taste good, no one wants to eat it.
Romanians usually eat bread with their ciorba. They pinch the bread up and put it in the soup. My two youngest kids can hardly eat soup without pinching their bread and up putting it in their soup because they learned it in Romania and like it so much. We used to be able to buy Romanian style bread locally here, but the bakery stopped selling it, so I have to go with American style bread. My bowl of ciorbab taranesc, is sitting on a Romanian table cloth. Pofta Buna! (Bon apetit!, or enjoy your food!)