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Mămăligă ( ; , , , , "cornmeal mush") is a dish made out of yellow maize traditional for Romaniamarker, Moldovamarker and Ukrainemarker. It is better known to the rest of the world in its Italian form - 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.

Traditionally, mămăliga 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, mămăliga 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, mămăliga can be much softer, sometimes almost to the consistency of porridge. Because mămăliga sticks to metal surfaces, it can be cut with a string into slices, and is eaten by holding it with the hand, just like bread would be.

Mămăliga is often served with sour cream and cheese on the side (mămăliguta cu brânză şi smântână) or crushed in a bowl of hot milk (mămăliguta cu lapte). Sometimes slices of mămăligă are pan-fried in oil or in lard, the result being a sort of corn pone.

Since mămăliga can be used as an alternate 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 rolls) with mămăligă.

Its analogue in Bulgariamarker is called kachamak ( ) and is served mainly with white brine cheese (сирене; sirene) or fried pieces of pork fat with parts of the skin (пръжки; prăzhki).

Another very popular Romanian dish based on mămăliga is called bulz, and consists of balls of mămăligă filled with cheese and butter and roasted in the oven.

Balmoş (sometimes spelled balmuş) is another mămăligă-like traditional Romanian dish, but is more elaborate. Unlike mămăligă (where the cornmeal is boiled in water) when making balmoş the cornmeal must be boiled in sheep milk. Other ingredients, such as butter, sour cream, telemea (a type of feta cheese), caş (a type of fresh curdled ewe cheese without whey, which is sometimes called "green cheese" in English), urdă (a type of curdled cheese obtained by boiling and curdling the whey left from caş), etc., are added to the mixture at certain times during the cooking process. It is a specialty dish of the Romanian of old shepherds, and nowadays very few people still know how to make a proper balmoş.

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. Mămăliga 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.


  • A gruel made of cornmeal, water, milk, butter, salt and sugar is called in Romanian cir de mămăligă. If it is exceedingly thin and made only of cornmeal, water and salt it is called mieşniţă.
  • Depending on the context, mălai is the Romanian word for either:
    • The Romanian version of cornmeal
    • Any type of cereals or edible grains (much like the English corn), but this use of the word is becoming increasingly obsolete
  • Corn flour (i.e., maize flour) is called in Romanian mălai or făină de mălai.
  • Before the arrival of maize in Eastern Europe, mămăligă was made of millet flour, but nowadays millet mămăligă is no longer made.
  • It is necessary to exercise caution when preparing. There is a risk of splattering and it is extremely hot, and can cause burns.

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