White, green and red! These are the colors of the Bulgarian flag that you can find in this masterpiece of Bulgarian culinary art: shopska salata or shopska salad.
What is shopska salata?
Shopska salata, known as Bulgarian salad as well can also be found in Macedonia and Serbia (Шопска салата), in Bosnia and Croatia (Šopska salata), in Romania (Salata bulgărească), in the Czech Republic (Šopský salat), in Poland (Sałatka szopska), in Albania (Sallata boutique) and in Hungary (Sopszka saláta),
Hard to believe that such a gastronomic monument is made with such simple ingredients including tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, parsley, and sirene, this famous Bulgarian cheese that resembles feta and and is also the star ingredient of delicious banitsa.
What is the origin of shopska salata?
Many Bulgarians think this salad is part of a very old culinary heritage. But this is not the case at all!
This is actually the original creation of a team of chefs from Balkanturist, the oldest tour operator in Bulgaria.
It was in 1960 that the shopska salad became the symbol of all their restaurants and became very popular in all their taverns with embroidered tablecloths, colorful pottery and other typical Bulgarian accessories supposed to attract foreign tourists.
This was the start of the incredible symbiosis between peppers and tomatoes for red, cucumbers and scallions for green, and cheese for white. And if you add rakia, the traditional Bulgarian spirit that almost inevitably accompanies the salad, the setting becomes even more colorful. Bulgaria should patent this culinary masterpiece!
The popularity of shopska salata
Shopska salad has become a hit in the European Union. Indeed, in 2013, this symbol of Bulgarian cuisine took the top spot among national dishes, organized by the European Parliament (EP) on the occasion of the European elections.
This initiative, called “A taste of Europe” placed Bulgarian shopska salata in first position, and all the others far behind, including famous Italian spaghettis, Spanish gazpacho, French boeuf bourguignon, Swedish meatballs and British fish and chips.
Lithuanian cold beet soup took the second place and Romanian stuffed cabbage finished third in the rankings.
Competition was fierce as on the European Parliament’s Facebook page, all the EU member countries published excellent recipes. But the Bulgarian National salad was chosen for the European elections night! Indeed, the European Parliament’s idea is that people gather on election night to celebrate the results with friends around a good table.
Robert De Niro, George Michael, Pink Floyd, Harrison Ford, Keanu Reeves, Antonio Banderas, Pierce Brosnan, Milla Jovovich, Scarlett Johansson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone … all those Hollywood stars who already shot or sang in Bulgaria, have long discovered the secret of this Bulgarian masterpiece. Among the fans of this shopska salad: Elton John!
You can only love shopska salata!
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- ½ green bell pepper , roasted with skin removed
- ½ red bell pepper , roasted with skin removed
- 2 scallions
- 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley , chopped
- ½ lb sirene (or feta)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
Cut tomatoes and cucumber into large dice.
Thinly slice scallions.
Mix all ingredients except the cheese in a large bowl and set aside in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Finally, top with crumbled sirene cheese before serving.