Arts, Food & Free Time

Beginner’s guide to Transylvania – VII.

There is another Transylvanian gastronomic specialty which is really famous, both Hungarians and Romanians consume it. The zakuszka (or zacusin Romanian) can be found in every household, because in many cases the process of making zakuszka means a family, friendly, or even social event.

The origin of zakuszka

Some say that zakuszka is originally from Armenia or Georgia, and came to Transylvania through Moldova. Others say it originates from the Balkans and Hungarians learned the recipe from their Romanian neighbors. The only certainty is that the word „zakuszka” is of Slavic origin: закусить (zakuszity) means simply “appetizer” or “snack” which greatly stimulates the taste of food.

There are as many recipes as housewifes

– say every zakuszka recipe book. Zakuszka is a popular vegetable spread, typically on bread, although traditionally prepared at home, so everybody makes it in a different way. The main ingredients are roasted eggplant, sauteed onions, tomato paste and roasted red peppers. Some add mushrooms, beans, carrots or celery. Bay leaves are added as spice, as well as other ingredients (oil, salt and pepper). Traditionally, a family will cook a large quantity of it after the fall harvest and preserve it through canning. It is said to improve in taste after some months of maturing but must be used within days of opening.

My mother told me her secret: she always roasts the vegetables on the grille, this is why the slightly burnt aroma of vegetables gives the zakuszka a pleasant sour taste. After this, she adds the chopped onion, puts all the smashed vegetables and oil into the dish. After one our of boiling, she adds tomato paste, salt, pepper, and a little preservatives. After another 2 or 3 hour of boiling (it depends of the stove and the quantity of zakuszka) she puts the zakuszka in jars and places the jars into a dry duster.

Of course, every family member helps in the process of making zakuszka, everyone has a defined role.


Author: Kata Kádár