PRINCESS STRANDZHANKA

PRINCESS STRANDZHANKA

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 11:24

Bulgaria makes a valuable if modest addition to the world of Lord Sandwich, Dame Melba and the Stroganoffs

hot toast bulgaria.jpg
Bread + mince meat + toasting = bliss

Lord Sandwich's sandwich, the melba dessert of Dame Nellie Melba, the Beef Stroganoff named after Russian aristocrats – history records the recipes and names of these culinary legends.

No one, however, knows how the printsesa, or princess, was born. Or the strandzhanka, or woman from Strandzha, for that matter. Both refer to the same thing – a slice of white bread grilled with minced meat. Other variations include toppings of kashkaval, or yellow cheese, or a thick mixture of cheese and eggs.

Printsesi and strandzhanki are eaten regularly by Bulgarians, either at home or from lunch counters. Some linguists and culinary historians claim that the strandzhanka originated in the southwest of Burgas. They maintain the dish was the staple diet of local hayduti, or rebels, in times of crisis when the Ottoman caravans they usually plundered took safer routes. When the northern part of Strandzha became a part of independent Bulgaria in 1923, the strandzhanka grew popular all over country. But, since Bulgaria was still a kingdom at the time, people called it printsesa.

There is a serious flaw in this theory, though. It does not explain why subsequently the Communists did not change the name printsesa to drugarka, or female comrade, for example. But one unfortunate pastry, called a marquise, did undergo a metamorphosis. At the end of the 1940s, it was renamed "Marxism." Not long after that, the pastry disappeared from the shops altogether. Whether it happened because interest in it dwindled, or because a certain comrade found even that new name unacceptable, is not known.

The strong Strandzha roots of the printsesa, however, are evident for another – irrefutable – reason. Only in Strandzha is the dish a source of local pride. No fair, gathering or other open-air event is complete without it – just as, all over Bulgaria, no celebrations happen without the ubiquitous grilled kebapcheta on hand.

Another thing: even if you are blindfolded, you can easily distinguish the strandzhanka from a simple printsesa with minced meat.

As a rule of thumb, printsesi are normally cooked under the grill of an oven. But strandzhanki – especially at fairs and other open-air events, are tossed on a barbecue, next to the kebapcheta. Before they hand one over to you, vendours spread lyutenitsa on it.

Toast sandwich bulgaria

Putting on luytenitsa or ketchup on a princess appeared in the days of the free market and is seen as controversial

Critics of this practice, who are mainly from regions where strandzhanka refers to a woman from Strandzha, say that lyutenitsa is used to disguise how thin the layer of meat is on top. They claim that the printsesi contain a more generous portion, and is often sprinkled with grated kashkaval.

To the people of the Burgas region, however, eating strandzhanka without lyutenitsa is the equivalent of serving Dame Melba a melba dessert without the topping. But does it really matter how thick the layer of mince is?

When you consider it's made out of ground windpipe, cartilage and soya, if the Ottomans and the Communists did not succeed in destroying the strandzhanka princess, minced meat like this probably will.

Printsesa, or strandzhanka, at home

Mix a pack of minced meat bought from a butcher you trust – or 250 grams of meat you have minced yourself – with one or two eggs, a little salt, ground black pepper and, if you prefer, some cumin or chubritsa. Slice some bread. Spread butter on the slices if you wish. Put the minced meat on top of the slices, just enough so that it does not spill over the edges.

Heat under a grill – in Bulgaria, there is a special type of oven for cooking this way, called a party-grill – until the meat is cooked. If you like, sprinkle some grated kashkaval on top and put it back under the grill until the cheese melts and lightly browns.

Issue 30 Bulgarian food
0 comments

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
7 + 6 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Discover More

Boyko Borisov_0.jpg
BLAST FROM THE PAST*
Bulgaria's courts have been given the chance to write legal history as former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is suing Yordan Tsonev, the MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, over Tsonev's referral to him as a mutra.

bulgaria underworld.jpg
WHAT IS A MUTRA?
Mutra is one of those short and easy-to-pronounce Bulgarian words that is also relatively easy to translate.

Magdalina Stancheva.jpg
WHO WAS MAGDALINA STANCHEVA?
Walking around Central Sofia is like walking nowhere else, notwithstanding the incredibly uneven pavements.

SCHOLARS AND RADICALS
When a Bulgarian TV crew came to our village in northeastern Bulgaria to shoot a beer advert they wanted British people in the film, so we appeared as ourselves.
Lt John Dudley Crouchley, 1944.jpg
LONG ROAD HOME FOR LT CROUCHLEY
During most of the Second World War, Bulgaria and the United States were enemies. In 1943-1944 Allied aircrafts bombed major Bulgarian cities.

WHAT'S YOUR AUNT TO YOUR NEPHEW ANYWAY?
Happy families may be alike, unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, but in Bulgaria all these come with a twist: a plethora of hard-to-pronounce names for every maternal and paternal aunt, uncle and in-law that can possibly exist.
french soldiers monument svishtov.jpg
FRANCE IN BULGARIA
Sofia is awash with English signs and logos, but here and there a French name pops up: a central street is called Léandre le Gay, schools are named Alphonse de Lamartine and Victor Hugo, a metro station is known as Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

buzludzha.jpg
WHAT TO DO WITH BULGARIA'S FLYING SAUCER?
During the past 20 years Bulgaria has gained notoriety with an unusual tourist attraction. No, it is not the Kazanlak roses, not the mushrooming "medieval" fortresses being erected from scratch with EU money.

stambolov monument.jpg
WHO WAS STEFAN STAMBOLOV?
Bulgaria's news cycle nowadays consists largely of real and imaginary scandals that grab the public attention for a while before being buried under a heap of new scandals.

koprivshtitsa rebelion bridge.jpg
BRIDGES OF FREEDOM
History sometimes moves in mysterious ways, as indicated by the story of the role two bridges played in two revolutions, a century and an ocean apart.

casablanka10.jpg
CASABLANCA'S BULGARIAN CONNECTION
No doubt your wanderlust will not be satisfied until you visit Casablanca, the bustling city of 3.8-plus million on the Atlantic coast that dominates the Kingdom of Morocco.

pirogov hospital.jpg
WHO WAS NIKOLAY PIROGOV?
It belongs to the largest emergency hospital in the country.