This is what Magyars know as Kolozsvári rakott káposzta, or Cluj style stuffed cabbage. If you are not from Hungary you may be wondering why I use multiple names for the town in different languages. When writing about territories that were once within the historic boundaries of the Kingdom of Hungary, Magyars always use the Hungarian place name. Hungarian newspapaers that even try to call a town by its Romanian (Cluj) or Serbian (Novi Sad) or Slovak name (Bratislava) are deluged by angry letters correcting the offending writer (Kolozsvár! Újvidék! Pozsony!) and the occasional violent street demonstration for breaking the rule. And since I am writing in Budapest, that last option is something one would want to take into consideration. I've actually had good friends, highly educated and well traveled Hungarians, grow livid because I used a Romanian place name in my writing, even when the topic had nothing to do with Hungarian history. As far as I am concerned, when writing about a place I prefer to use the name in the national language or just not be too tight assed about it. So there. We all eat stuffed cabbage, so who cares how we call it? And it is as good as it looks... smoked hunk of pork hock next to a pile of stewed cabbage with paprika and ground pork... thick water buffalo sour cream... this breaks about every rule of kosher eating in the book.
You might not want to eat this every day, in which case you can have the simple smoked pork and beans dish on offer - ciolan cu fasole. This is the stuff that you want when you open a can of pork and beans, not that sweet goopy canned stuff we were raised with in the States! This is real Romanian truck driver food, and some of the best can be found at the road houses along the highway between Oradea (Nagyvárad!) and Huedin (Bánffyhunyad!) near Ciucea (Csucsa!) on the drive into Cluj from the north. Our meal came to about US $6.oo each.
If, by any quantum leap of possibility, you have room for dessert, they have vargabéles, which is the Hungarian name for a sweet bread pudding dessert but in Transylvania it means straightforward Jewish lokshn kugel, noodles baked with sweet farmer cheese and raisins. Up in Maramures the Romanian peasants still call this kigl, a linguistic borrowing straight from the Hungarian pronounciation of Yiddish. No surprise - Cluj was the home of one of the more influential Hasidic dynasties, the Klausenbergers, or Kloysenbuger hoyf, who are still around today in Brooklyn, Antwerp and Israel. There are several synagogues, including this one near the main market, now restored as a university research intitute for Judaistic studies.
Now you have to walk that meal off... Even in absolutely crap weather I can recomend the back streets of Cluj. It is modernizing fast, like most Romanian towns, but you still find hidden bits of history on the back streets, like this house - built sometiome around 1750 or so - which has remained in place while the streets have risen in height over the centuries.
The news is that I will be off to New York and the USA in a week, so I may miss Transylvania a bit (although some of the work I will be doing in NY will be tangentially Transylvania-related.) For the next two months expect a lot of in-depth looks at Korean and Chinese food, as well as discussions on the hermeneutics of Jersey's tiny hamburgers. But New York neeeds me... there are shopping malls in the New Jersey suburbs that might need some Transylvanian advice on how to really reach your target maket groups... and I've got some hot new marketing ideas that I picked up on my travels!