The Romanian Easter Cooking Series (1) Mici/Mititei

  • Difficulty: Medium (prep) – Hard (cooking)
  • Estimated cooking/prep time: 30-45min (but 12h overnight rest)
  • Cuisine: Romanian

This Easter we decided to be a little adventurous with our cooking, and try two very classic Romanian dishes. The first one is a top 5 most famous Romanian national dish (if not top 1) and is rarely made at home: mici or mititei (which literally translates to ‘tiny ones’).

They resemble sausages in texture, but are not wrapped in anything, you simply cook the meat – on a charcoal grill for best results. Typically they’re made out of beef mince mixed with another fattier type of mince, either pork or lamb. Since we don’t have a grill, our version is a little more homemade friendly and affordable, and the taste (to my own surprise!) was as close as it gets to the real thing!

For best results, the ‘Internet’ suggests that you mince your own meat, and make a nice little beef broth with some of the beef leftovers, but ours came out more than delicious without any of that.

Here is what we used:

350g minced beef (5% fat)

250g minced lamb (20ish% fat) – you can replace this with pork, but just make sure it’s fattier than the beef

½ – ¾ tbsp dried or fresh thyme

¾ tbsp paprika

½ tbsp pepper

½ tbsp baking soda

¼ spoon salt

Optional: ¼ tbsp cumin, any other of your favourite spices

250ml ice cold water (I used 200ish ml of cold tap water and added in 5 ice cubes) – for better results, you can replace this with a nice fresh beef broth, but if you are in a rush as we were, water is completely fine!

You can adjust your spices based on your preferences, I generally love spicy food, so if you’re like me, feel free to add in some chili flakes, or your other preferred spices, but if you want a more authentic taste, stick with the above.

Making it is also quite simple but requires a little bit of muscle work!

Mix the minced meats in a big bowl and add your spices, as well as two-three tbsp of the cold water. Mix everything thoroughly by hand (or if you have fancy kitchen gadgets, those are fine as well) – about 5-10min at least!

Once the mixture starts feeling very soft, well-combined and sticky, add in more cold water, about 2-3 tbsp at a time. Keep repeating this for about 5-10 more minutes until the mixture is sticky and very soft – see the picture for reference. You might not need all the water/broth listed in the recipe and that’s why you should only put a few tbsp at a time – for example in mine, I used a little less than ¾ of the total.

Put the mixture in the fridge overnight, for at least 12 hours, but the longer the better.

The next day, it’s time to format the mici! Yes, we literally say ‘formatting the mici’ in Romanian.

You can shape them by hand (wet your hands with cold water or a bit of oil, otherwise it will be too sticky), or do as I did: put the mixture in a Ziploc bag, cut the corner to whichever size you prefer and squeeze them out! Much cleaner, quicker, and more equal sizes!

Heat up a frying pan over medium heat with a bit of vegetable or sunflower oil and once it’s warm enough, place your mici around the pan. Make sure they are nice and brown on each side and then add a few tbsp of water and cover them with a lid for another 5-8min depending on how thick your final result is.

The cooking is by far the trickiest part because the best mici you will have at a restaurant or food truck will be nice and crispy/crunchy on the outside, with a very soft and chewy middle – not pink though! It might take a few attempts to master this, especially if you’ve never tried Romanian food before.

If you want to be extra authentic, enjoy your mici with a nice fresh loaf of bread and mustard, which is the go-to condiment, and a beer! Where I grew up, there was a famous saying ‘mici, bere, și voie buna’, which translates to something along the lines of ‘mici, beer, and a good time’ because the three are inseparable!