Mamaliga (mama-leegah) is the Moldovan equivalent of corn bread – a much wetter corn bread. Mamaliga, (besides being a fun word to say) was a traditional peasant dish of Moldova and Romania, but is now very common and available in even high-end traditional restaurants. (It’s somewhat similar to Italian polenta.)
Mamaliga is made by boiling water, salt and cornmeal in a cast iron pot, that is shallow and has a curved bottom. It can be made two ways – either thicker, where it can be cut into slices, like bread or softer, similar to the consistency of a thick oatmeal. Since mamaliga is sticky and will stick to a knife when fresh, it is often cut with a sewing thread.
Typically this dish is served with shaved brinza (salty, homemade cheese) and meat or fish, but sometimes there’s sour cream or garlic on the side or it’s crushed into a bowl of hot milk. It’s the perfect combination of hearty, salty and tasty, if done right and most importantly eaten fresh. If you want to taste Moldova, order fried fish, brinza, sour cream, garlic and mamaliga – it’s a unique combination of tastes and textures, unlike anything else.
This is actually one of the few Moldovan dishes I had tried before I came to Moldova. During a post-acceptance, goodbye weekend trip with my mother to New York, we went to the only Moldovan resturant on the east coast, in Brooklyn, New York and sampled mamaliga with brinza.