Is Cluj the fast food capital of Romania? Făclia de Cluj called Cluj the “champion” of Romania in fast food on its front page on the 9 January. The residents of Cluj (including ex-pats and perhaps tourists) ordered 42,372 cheeseburgers in 2022. And they ordered a lot more.
For me, the most interesting part is the fact that they called an egg and cheese bagel an “egg & cheese bagel.” I can understand not using the word brânza, “cheese” food isn’t exactly something I would translate as “cheese” either. But I thought that “bagel” in Romanian was just another kind of covrig. (In scientific studies, bagels are translated into covrigi, which is confusing because covrigi is also the word for those much-more-nutritious pretzels that they have. So, it makes sense just to call it bagel, covrigi are much better). And “egg” is “ou”, isn’t it? Don’t tell me that even the eggs on those “sandwiches” are artificial.
The most expensive order in Cluj in 2022 cost over four thousand lei. That is new lei, or RON, not old lei. That is almost half of what it costs to get a coffee with mayor Emil Boc! I hope they had a fun party. (I am using “they” because I assume all that “food” fed more than one person).
Romanian word of the day: schnitzels. (Șnițele in Romanian. Yes, those diacritical marks come in handy when you want to shorten a word). The biggest delivery customer in Cluj made 746 orders. And 142 of those were for chicken șnițele.
The second biggest customer in Romania was in Brașov, not too far from Bran Castle, with 667 orders. But the third was also in Cluj. Perhaps a few big orders are skewing the statistics.
In most of Romania, people prefer ordering at lunchtime. Perhaps they are working from home, and don’t have time to cook or go out for lunch. Or they order straight to the office. People from Cluj are number 2 in the country for ordering fast food for breakfast, and number 3 for midnight snacks, ordering 3,185 chicken shawarmas between 10 pm and 2 am.
And where else are Clujeans number one (for Romania)? In ordering deserts. The favorites are mini papanașii (no, I will not translate that into donuts, because these aren’t Homer Simpson donuts) with something called smânână și dulceață de afine. This is is a desert made with Romanian cream and blueberries. I haven’t tried it yet, but they look delicious.
Most of the delivery orders seem to show an affinity for chicken. Now, those who struggle with the language may have trouble finding vegetarian meals. If you want to ensure that your meal is vegetarian, you can order from a vegetarian eatery like Veg Eat Up, or you can order a meniu de post (post means fast, as in go without food. The orthodox fast mostly abstains from animal products, so meniul and produse de post are normally suitable for vegetarians).
When compared with other ex-pat communities, there seem to be a lot more deliveries in Cluj. I did not anywhere near as many food delivery bikes in the UK, Portugal, or Belgium, or when stopping in other European cities, as I did in Cluj.
These numbers seem to only include those who order delivery. Langos, flavored pretzels (not all covrigi are pretzels, but many are pretzel-shaped), palanets, pistachio croissants, and other local favorites might be ordered in person at the local bakeries.
Here’s a little piece of trivia for Pulp Fiction fans. What do they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Romania? Nope, it’s not a Royal with Cheese (nor a Regal Cu Brânza). A Quarter Pounder is simply a Quarter Pounder. Yes, they use the metric system, but they are not French. French fries, however, are cartofi prăjiți because, even though they aren’t French, many have been to France, and everyone knows that the French are not the biggest eaters of fried potatoes.
With all this, you might wonder how to lose weight in Cluj. Well, the greatest weight loss story we know of is that of Cluj graduate Corneliu Coposu. His secret? Communism. Or prison. After being sent to a communist prison, Mr. Coposu lost over 50 kilos in weight! He never seemed to gain it back, not even after the revolution in 1989.
Not that Mr. Coposu was happy about this weight loss. He used to be an amateur boxer at his full weight, and he didn’t seem to want to be that skinny. However, had he been alive today, with four delivery companies bringing shoarma, schnitzels, and deserts to his home, he could probably have regained the weight in no time.
There are, of course, healthier options. Cluj also has many sports centers. In fact, Cluj-Napoca may be one of the sportiest towns in Europe. There are also greengrocers where you can buy fruit and vegetables, butchers and dairies that have delicious, healthy options. Perhaps these are not listed in the statistics because people buy them in person (or maybe because they are not fast food). So, had Coposu been alive today, perhaps he could have regained some of that muscle and competed once again, as a senior boxer.
Perhaps that is why Cluj is also the champion of many sports, from soccer to basketball.