Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An adventure in cheese.

American's have 'American cheese'. Romanians have 'Cascaval'.
 Cascaval is a common, affordable, and ubiquitous cheese here. If you order a cheese sandwich - Cascaval.  Burrito? Cascaval all over it. Cheesburger? Cascaval again. This is great if you enjoy the flavor but a lot of times I don't. The tricky thing with this cheese is that there are a lot of variations that look exactly the same but taste different (see photo). Despite this fact Romanians (at least all those I've encountered) consider it all to be the same; they never refer to types of cascaval. No menu will list the specific variation of cascaval, like "Cascaval Dalia" or "Cascaval Dorna". They just put "cascaval". And this is why I tend to avoid the cheese when possible. My first encounter with it, over six months ago, did not go well. To me it has this strong, stinky aftertaste that makes me want to spit it out. Yuck, I can't eat it.

Or so I thought. 

Slowly I began to discover that all cascavals were not created equal. That took time since everyone I know likes any kind of cascaval and aren't picky about the type. It wasn't until I enjoyed a chicken w/cascaval sandwich at the Cluj Airport this past August that  I realized there was a mild, non-stinky version of the cheese I could eat. I had to find it. But how? Well, I really didn't know how. Catalin never makes the distinction between cascaval types, thus he was just as clueless as I regarding different flavors. Asking for samples was out of the question. People don't do that here and I didn't want to get an ice cold stare-down from the lady behind the counter.

Hmm what to do, what to do? I knew stinky was my enemy so one day it finally occurred to me- use your nose. It worked surprisingly well! There I was like a crazy woman, smelling hunks of packaged cheese at the supermarket one by one. I'm pretty sure Cata was embarrassed but he was kind enough to let me sniff away without any protests on his part. The stinky cascaval was easy to spot and avoid. My nose led me to this gem: "Cascaval Calup de Vaca" (aka)" De Albalact Cascaval Calup"If any Americans in Romania are reading, I would recommend trying this cheese. It is white like all the others, and has a mild flavor which strongly resembles cheddar.  Yum.

*UPDATE AUG.2012 –"Napolact Cascaval Dej" Is also a winner and it is easier to find than those previously mentioned*
The 'cascaval' cheese section of Real supermarket, Bucharest.


Odessa says:
at: December 18, 2011 at 8:53 AM said...

AHA! Thanks for letting me know which type Cascaval tastes most like Cheddar. I have found cheddar here at a Kauffland market, but the stuff is sky high, like 4.28 lei per 100 g - 200 grams costs me nearly 10 lei! Sorry, but with 3 kiddos - no way!

BTW, what part of Texas are you from? I lived in Houston for 5 years, originally from Baton Rouge.

Vivian says:
at: February 5, 2012 at 11:34 AM said...

Happy to help! Unfortunately after I created this post all the stores seemed to have stopped carrying the tasty cheddar substitute. Stores are so unpredictable here. It was great while it lasted though.

p.s I'm from San Antonio

My story:

Girl meets boy.
Love strikes.
Boy moves to Romania,
girl (now engaged) follows suit.

I'll be living abroad for the first time in my life beginning January 11th 2011. Follow this blog if you want to see my adventures.