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

Commenting on

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on


Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

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.

Discover More

boyan the magus
What do you do when the events of the day overwhelm you? When you feel that you have lost control of your own life? You might overeat, rant on social media or buy stuff you do not need. You might call your shrink.

Monument to Hristo Botev in his native Kalofer
Every 2 June, at exactly noon, the civil defence systems all over Bulgaria are switched on. The sirens wail for a minute. A minute when many people stop whatever they are doing and stand still.

st george day bulgaria
Bulgarians celebrate St George's Day, or Gergyovden, with enormous enthusiasm, both officially and in private.

Shopska salad is the ultimate rakiya companion
The easiest way for a foreigner to raise a Bulgarian brow concerns a sacrosanct pillar of national identity: rakiya, the spirit that Bulgarians drink at weddings, funerals, for lunch, at protracted dinners; because they are sad or joyful, and somet

"Where is the parliament?" A couple of months ago anyone asking this question in Sofia would have been pointed to a butter-yellow neoclassical building at one end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Boyko Borisov_0.jpg
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
Mutra is one of those short and easy-to-pronounce Bulgarian words that is also relatively easy to translate.

Magdalina Stancheva.jpg
Walking around Central Sofia is like walking nowhere else, notwithstanding the incredibly uneven pavements.

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
During most of the Second World War, Bulgaria and the United States were enemies. In 1943-1944 Allied aircrafts bombed major Bulgarian cities.

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
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.