|Place of origin||Romania|
|Region or state||Romania, Moldova|
|70 kcal (293 kJ)|
Mămăligă (Romanian pronunciation: [məməˈliɡə] ⓘ;) is a porridge made out of yellow maize flour, traditional in Romania, Moldova, Western Ukraine and among Poles in Ukraine, the Black Sea regions of Georgia and Turkey, and Thessaly and Phthiotis, in Greece. It is traditional also in Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Brazil, with the name polenta.
Historically a peasant food, it was often used as a substitute for bread or even as a staple food in the poor rural areas. However, in the last decades it has emerged as an upscale dish available in the finest restaurants.
Historically, porridge is the oldest form of consumption of grains in the whole of humanity, long before the appearance of bread. Originally, the seeds used to prepare slurries were very diverse as millet or einkorn.
Corn's introduction in the Romanian lands
Maize was introduced into Spain by Hernán Cortés from Mexico in 1530 and spread in Europe in the 16th century. Maize (called corn in the United States) requires a good amount of heat and humidity. The Danube Valley is one of Europe's regions ideal for growing maize.
A Hungarian scholar documented the arrival of corn in Timișoara, Banat region, 1692. In Transylvania, maize is also called 'cucuruz', which could imply a connection between Transylvanian and Serbian merchants, kukuruz being a Slavic word. Some assume it was either Șerban Cantacuzino or Constantin Mavrocordat who introduced corn in Wallachia, Maria Theresa in Transylvania and Constantine Ducas in Moldavia where it is called păpușoi. Mămăligă of millet would have been replaced gradually by mămăligă made of corn. The corn then become an important food, especially in the fight against famine, which prevailed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Etienne Ignace Raicevich, a Republic of Ragusa Ragusan consul of Napoleonic France to Bucharest in the fourth quarter of the 18th century, wrote that corn was introduced only da poco tempo (recently).
Traditionally, mămăligă is cooked by boiling water, salt and cornmeal in a special-shaped cast iron pot called ceaun or tuci. When cooked peasant-style and used as a bread substitute, mămăligă is supposed to be much thicker than the regular Italian polenta to the point that it can be cut in slices, like bread. When cooked for other purposes, mămăligă can be much softer, sometimes almost to the consistency of porridge. Because mămăligă sticks to metal surfaces, a piece of sewing thread is used to cut it into slices instead of a knife; it can then be eaten by holding it with the hand, just like bread.
Mămăligă is a versatile food: various recipes of mămăligă-based dishes may include milk, butter, various types of cheese, eggs, sausages (usually fried, grilled or oven-roasted), bacon, mushrooms, ham, fish etc. Mămăligă is a fat-free, cholesterol-free, high-fiber food. It can be used as a healthy alternative to more refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, or hulled rice.
Mămăligă is often served with sour cream and cheese on the side (mămăligă cu brânză și smântână) or crushed in a bowl of hot milk (mămăligă cu lapte). Sometimes slices of mămăligă are pan-fried in oil or in lard, the result being a sort of corn pone.
The traditional Moldavian meal is often served with meat, usually pork called tocana or fried fish, and mujdei, a garlic-and-oil sauce.
Since mămăligă can be used as an alternative for bread in many Romanian and Moldovan dishes, there are quite a few which are either based on mămăligă, or include it as an ingredient or side dish. Arguably, the most popular of them is sarmale (a type of cabbage roll/grapevine roll) with mămăligă.
Another very popular Romanian dish based on mămăligă is called bulz, and consists of mămăligă with cheese and butter and roasted in the oven.
Balmoș (sometimes spelled balmuș) is another mămăligă-like traditional Romanian dish, but is more elaborate. Unlike mămăligă (where the cornmeal is boiled in water) when making balmoș the cornmeal must be boiled in sheep milk. Other ingredients, such as butter, sour cream, telemea (a type of feta cheese), caș (a type of fresh curdled ewe cheese without whey, which is sometimes called "green cheese" in English), urdă (similar to ricotta), etc., are added to the mixture at certain times during the cooking process. It is a specialty dish of old Romanian shepherds, and nowadays very few people still know how to make a proper balmoș.
In Chapter One of Dracula by Bram Stoker is the commentary, "I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was 'mamaliga', and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call 'impletata'".
Its analogue in Serbia and Bulgaria is called kačamak (Serbian: качамак/kačamak, Bulgarian: качамак) and is served mainly with white brine cheese or pork rind (fried pieces of pork fat with parts of the skin).
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia (also polenta or palenta), Serbia (also kačamak) and in Montenegro the dish is mainly called pura. In North Macedonia it is called bakrdan (Macedonian: бакрдан) and in Slovenia polenta.
Hungarians call it puliszka.
In Turkey it is also called mamaliga, or kaçamak. Another similar dish, called kuymak or muhlama, is among the typical dishes of the Black Sea Region, although now popular in all the greater cities where there are many regional restaurants.
Broccoliga is a variant of Mămăligă featuring a broccoli-polenta mixture suffused with cheddar cheese and herbs.
Known by different names in local languages (Abkhaz: абысҭа abysta, Adyghe: мамрыс mamrys, Georgian: ღომი ghomi, Ingush: журан-худар zhuran-khudar, Chechen: ah'ar-hudar/zhuran-hudar, Nogai: мамырза mamyrza, Ossetian: сера sera), it is also widespread in Caucasian cuisines.
This dish is eaten widely across Africa, often with white maize flour instead of yellow, where it has different local names:
- Akamu – Igbo, Nigeria
- Arega - Kenya, Luo
- Bando - Soga, Uganda
- Bidia – DR Congo
- Bogobe/Phaletšhe – Botswana, South Africa
- Bugali – Burundi, DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan Rwanda
- Buhobe – Lozi
- Buru – Kenya, Luo
- Busima-Bagisu, Uganda
- Chenge – Kenya, Luo
- Chima – Mozambique
- Couscous de Cameroon – Cameroon
- Fitah - Sudan, South Sudan, Congo
- Fufu - Sierra Leone
- Isitshwala – Botswana, Ndebele
- Kawunga - Ganda, Uganda
- Kimnyet – Kalenjin, Kenya
- Kuon – Kenya, Luo
- Kwen wunga - Alur, Uganda
- Lipalishi – Eswatini
- Mielie pap – Lesotho, South Africa
- Mogo – Kenya, Luo
- Moteke – DR Congo
- Mutuku – South Africa
- Nfundi – Congo
- Ngima – Kamba, Kenya, Kikuyu
- Nkima – Kenya, Meru
- Nshima- DR Congo Kasai region
- Nsima – Malawi, Zambia
- Obusuma – Kenya, Nyole
- Ogi – Nigeria, Yoruba
- Oshifima – Namibia
- Pap – Namibia, South Africa
- Papa – Lesotho, South Africa
- Phaletšhe – Botswana
- Phuthu – South Africa
- Posho – Uganda
- Poshto – Uganda
- Saab – Ghana, Kusasi
- Sadza – Shona and Kalanga, Zimbabwe and Botswana
- Sakora – Nigeria
- Sakoro – Ghana
- Sembe - Tanzania, slang
- Sembe – Kenya, slang
- Shadza – Kalanga, Botswana
- Shishima - Zambia
- Sima – Chewa, Tumbuka, and Ngoni
- Soor – Somalia, Zambia
- Tuozafi (or T.Z.) – Ghana
- Ubugali – Rwanda
- Ubwali – Bemba
- Ugali – Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Yao, Swahili
- Um'ratha – Ndebele
- Upswa – Mozambique
- Vbogobe – Sotho, Tswana
- Vhuswa – Venda
- Xima – Mozambique
Mămăligă with pork rind, bryndza and sour cream
Bulz with egg
Mămăligă served with salad, cheese, and meat in Moldova
- List of maize dishes
- List of porridges
- Tocană – a Romanian stew traditionally served with mămăligă
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