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Bulgarian banitsa shines in a world ranking - what we don't know about this ‎traditional dish

Photo: Taste Atlas

The Bulgarian banitsa stood out in a prestigious ranking, entering the top 50 of ‎the most delicious cheese dishes in the world. The famous website for ‎traditional cuisine and local products, Taste Atlas, has assigned the Bulgarian ‎delicacy the prestigious 5th position, while two more Bulgarian specialties fall ‎into the ranking - Shopska salad (14th position) and the shepherd’s salad (41st ‎position).‎

In different parts of Bulgaria, the banitsa made in a different way and it can have ‎a different taste, Prof. Dr. Ana Kocheva, head of the Dialectology section at the ‎Institute of the Bulgarian Language at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, ‎explained to Danail Konov from BNR’s Radio Sofia. She became convinced ‎of this, together with her colleagues, while traveling around the Bulgarian ‎language territory in connection with the preparation of an interactive culinary ‎map.
"Banitsa is the common Bulgarian name, but it can also be found as mlin, ‎which also means banitsa in various Bulgarian dialects, but not only," says ‎Prof. Kocheva and adds:‎
Проф. д-р Ана Кочева

"If you're in the Rhodope Mountain and they talk to you about banitsa, keep in ‎mind that they're talking about banitsa, even though it's made with rice. The ‎so-called “zelnik” (cabbage pie) is also a variety of banitsa everywhere in the ‎Bulgarian language territory, but don't be mistaken that it is made with ‎cabbage, rather it is a pie with all kinds of greens and plants from the garden, ‎including herbs. Although in some places the zelnik is indeed made with ‎cabbage, but it is rather sauerkraut, most often the zelnik variety os understood ‎as a pie with spinach, dock, etc. There is also the name “bilnik”  for a herb pie ‎‎(from “bilka” meaning herb”).

There are also the milk banitsa, the lazy banitsa, the barren banitsa, etc.. And ‎the oldest linguistic form of banitsa in Bulgarian lands is "gibanitsa" and is ‎characteristic of the Vidin region (the verb “nagibam” means to fold.) ‎Widespread are also names from the Turkish language, ‎for example burek, ‎pedia or pidia, and also the sweet tatlia, etc., because:‎
‎"We talk about Bulgarian national cuisine, but it is largely Balkan. It is ‎practically oriental”, says Prof. Kocheva.‎‏ ‏‎“ There are many intersections here in ‎the Balkans. And in this sense, we could talk about "culinary Balkanisms", ‎both in terms of language and in terms of food," says Prof. Kocheva.‎

Banitsa is undoubtedly the most traditional Bulgarian dish and is associated ‎with both the festive table and everyday life. It is no coincidence that it is in the ‎top 5 of the world ranking - this is the dish with which the Bulgarian national ‎cuisine attracts our foreign guests, Prof. Kocheva believes and adds:‎

‎"Banitsa is so popular because it is connected with the primordial food. with ‎the bread, with the dough, with the kneading, with the yeast, and with ‎everything that is both culinary and symbolic - both in the Bulgarian national ‎cuisine and in our traditional culture, and even in mythology. Because then, ‎when the bread and the banitsa can be mutually replaced, it means that the ‎attitude towards them is equally respectful, equally reverant," says Prof. ‎Konova. ‎

Compiled by Veneta Nikolova based on material by Danail Konov from ‎BNR's Radio Sofia
Editing by Darina Grigorova

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