Food Friday – History of the Shopska Salad (шопска салата)
Finally arriving in the capital city of Bulgaria after a nine-hour bus ride, my friend Kurt and I checked into our hostel. Amped up because the entertainment systems on the buses had Judas Priest, Metallica, and other American hair metal bands. We decided to explore the area we were in.
Now, Sofia doesn’t seem to be too big of a city (only 1.2 million people) and was a past soviet block country. So, we asked out hostel host where he would go for lunch or dinner if he had to pick anywhere in the city. As well as what dishes we should try while in Bulgaria.
According to this guy, the national dish of Bulgaria is colorful Shopska Salad.
Yes, a salad. As a national dish. I couldn’t believe it either. After eating the shopska salad, I committed it to my memory bank to make back home and to read further into.
So without further ado, here’s the history of Shopska Salad otherwise known as шопска салата, as told by me.
Back in the day, Bulgaria was a socialist country from 1946 to 1990 (it was known as The People’s Republic of Bulgaria).
During this time, everything was about distributing everything to everyone. Basically, everything produced should be regulated by the community.
But, the Shopska salad has a rather convoluted history depending where you look. It could either 1) Be from the Shopi people that inhabited the Shopluk region of the Balkans. Or 2) A socialist dish invented by the state-owned tourism company, Balkantourist.
It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the dish is most likely that latter option.
The main colors of the salad are red (tomatoes and/or peppers), green (cucumbers), and white (cheese). So, there’s that.
But, for some reason or another, that is the best dish Bulgaria has to offer. (And also, the only dish that has lasted from the socialist movement in Bulgaria.)
Just about any restaurant you go to in Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and other neighboring countries will have Shopska Salad or an eerily similar rendition.
You can learn how to make the Shopska Salad here.