Who’d have thought that you could come to Romania for raw vegan cuisine? In 2004, when I first came here, Romania had menus red in tooth and claw. If you didn’t eat meat, you could choose between potatoes and pasta, plain, with a tiny bowl of pickles or sour cream. Vegans were pointed at a field and told to eat the grass.
By Arabella McIntyre Brown
Bizarre, since religious locals are vegan for more than half the year, given the number of fasting days they observe. But mancare de post is bland fare. You’re meant to be suffering, not stuffing your face with gourmet nosh.
Since then, the Romanian meat-free offering has grown fast. Brasov, for instance, has Rawdia, a raw vegan haven tucked away like a guilty secret, behind Piata Sfatului and within an avocado stone’s throw of the Black Church. Ignore the uninviting entrance and head up cool, leafy stairs to a light, colourful interior and a warm welcome.
The owners, Stefania Comsa and Ionut Costin, are both trained chefs who are on a mission to spread the word about raw vegan eating for pleasure and for health. Apart from their three restaurants (Bucuresti, Brasov and Sibiu), they run occasional evening or weekend courses for keen cooks and anyone intrigued by the idea of raw vegan. They’re planning a five-day cooking camp this autumn in Magura (near Bran) based on Ayurvedic principles, bringing medics, nutritionists and suchlike to try a new approach to food and eating.
Comsa is a convert herself after reading Robin Sharma’s book which says quite a lot about the benefits of raw food. “I was a meat-eater, but I started to see the changes in people who switched to raw vegan. I used to be tired all the time – and now I have so much energy and feel radiant. It has really empowered me.”
The effect of eating raw vegan was tested by one of her customers, who was diabetic and decided to put Rawdia’s principles to the test. “He ate only our food, for lunch and dinner, every day for a year, delivered to his place. He was diabetic, and tests at the end of the year showed amazing results,” says Comsa.
Rawdia’s takeaway parcels are winning lots of new customers – tourists like the packages for picnics, and local workers love a raw vegan option for lunch.
Stefania loves inventing new recipes, especially for desserts and cakes, and seasonal specials like paska, cozonac and raw vegan sarmale.
“I want to keep learning,’ says Comsa. ‘It’s very exciting, and there’s always more to discover.”
Tastebuds love raw vegan
We had starters of turmeric cashew cream, olive pate, and seed bread (no flour). Completely delicious, all three, and far too much to finish. We were too polite to ask for a doggy bag, dammit.
Victoria then chose a salad of quinoa with cashew cheese, spinach, seeds and lemon. “It’s light, but filling. The cashew cheese was deliciously spicy and surprisingly cheesy. A perfect lunch.”
I opted to try Rawdia’s burger: almonds, sprouted wheat, kidney beans, onions, tomato and carrot, in a “bun” of oats and seeds, with a bit of salad to add crunch and greenery. The flavours were great, but I don’t much like the texture of the psyllium which held the burger together. I’m clearly in a minority as Stefania says this is by far the most popular main dish on the menu.
All the salads look beautiful and hearty, and next time I’ll try the nori rolls which use quinoa instead of sushi rice.
Service is quick and friendly, and the prices are excellent, given the amount of preparation that goes into each dish.
Highly recommended, especially for sceptical carnivores.