Anyone that has been to Bulgaria will have tasted the 'traditional' signature dish; the Shopska Salad and no doubt loved it. Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, roasted peppers, onions, all chopped and covered with a generous helping of freshly grated sirene (the crumbly white cheese made either from cow's or sheep milk) and a sprinkling of parsley. Oil and vinegar dressing optional.
Served throughout the Balkan region, with many neighbouring countries claiming it as an integral part of their cuisine, you may be forgiven for not immeditely recognising it to be "as Bulgarian as it gets" - but once you realise that the colours of the salad reflect the Bulgarian national flag (white, green, red) there should be no more doubt.
But if you are thinking this is a traditional recipe from the Shopi folk (Western Bulgaria, bordering with Northern Macedonia and Serbia) passed down over the centuries - you will once again be mistaken ;-)
The Truth is that in the 1960s, the salad was created as a signature dish by the top chefs at Balkantourist (state owned tourism monopoly) and then presented at their hotels across the country. And thus, this patriotic creation has become one of the most popular salads in Eastern Europe, ranking first in the 'Taste of Europe' initiative back in 2013, beating the likes of Swedish meatballs, Italian spaghetti and others. Saltibarsciai (cold beet soup) from Lithuania took 2nd place and Sarmale (the stuffed cabbage roll) from Romania came 3rd.
So now you know!