The roots of Roma gastronomy reflect the nomadic life the community used to have. Ingredients like meat, cabbage, potatoes and cheese can be found in multiple traditional recipes, while the preparation and serving rituals are based on hindu principles of the purity and impurity.


Roma’s culinary roots lie in nomadism. Over the years, the Roma have taken elements from the gastronomy of other countries and developed them in their own imagination. In the context of nomadic life, a hunting culture developed, so the Roma have always had a predilection for meaty dishes and have adapted recipes to the itinerant way of life.

One of the most popular dishes is the Șah Hai Mas, which has been prepared since ancient times, when the Roma lived in tents and moved from one place to another. As they had no kitchen, they cooked outside in a pot. Meat, cabbage and rice make up the recipe for Șah Hai Mas.

„Bândărețul” is prepared around the winter holidays and can be kept for up to a year if cooked according to standard rules, having pork tenderloin as the main ingredient. „Săviacul” is a pie made with salty cheese and the recipe has been preserved in Roma cuisine from generation to generation.

In general, their traditional dishes are very spicy and excessively caloric. Potatoes are an essential element of the Roma diet.

Their philosophy of life is based on the concepts of pure and impure, a philosophy borrowed from the Hindus. These two concepts structure the life of the traditional community. In their culture, the Roma place a symbolic value on the preparation and serving of meals. In order to preserve the purity of their plates, the dishes in which they cook and eat are washed and then dried out in the sun, and not wiped with fabric. Each container is intended for only one type of food. Meat is not cooked in the dish in which were the vegetables.

The traditional Roma Christmas food is blood sausage, made from pig’s blood. For reasons regarding ritual cleanliness, it is important that the blood is taken directly from the pig’s neck in the moment of slaughter, so it must not come into contact with the ground, which is considered impure.

The organisation of the dining area follows the same rules of purity. Men sit on one side of the table and women on the other or at completely different tables.

The Roma meal ritual strengthens the bonds between people in the community and establishes the status of each member of the family. The oldest man sits at the head of the table and is served first.

In their tradition, the food that is prepared at Christmas is considered an offering to God and the first portion is offered to a stranger.

A culinary custom strongly rooted in Roma tradition is the „lăsatul de sec de brânză”, when the godchildren go to the godparents with various gifts. Cheese pie and chicken wings make up the „lăsatul de sec de brânză” meal. It is said that whoever eats the chicken wing that day will have an easy life all year round.

At Roma weddings, the Shah Hai Mas is a must, and tradition requires a pig to be cut in the yard on the day of the event. Women in the community are in charge of preparing the food.

Romani poet and translator Luminița Cioabă wrote “Romane Xabenata. Romali cookbook”, a collection of culinary recipes from the Roma’s gastronomy from the time when they lived in tents.

Regarding the cooking of the dishes, the writer makes the following hypothesis: “If you are angry, you cannot cook food. Because all that negative energy will be transmitted to the people who are going to eat and instead of eating to be healthy, they become sick.” For the Roma community, both the preparation of meals and food are a ritual and a multi-sensorial  experience.

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