I wouldn’t call Țăcălie a Romanian traditional dish, or a dish at all. Not many Romanians know about it. It’s more of a regional thing. The people who would cook and eat Țăcălie used to be shepherds. It’s also possible that other cultures have a similar dish but I haven’t yet met someone from outside my family that can describe anything similar to Țăcălie.

Țăcălie is rich in calories and fat and it’s best served hot. The caloric value it offers is extremely important for people like shepherds because of the long hours on the cold mountains. The ingredients and method of making Țăcălie are also accessible. All they’d have to do is carry a chunk of pig fat, some bread and an onion, then make a little fire.

Story


For me Țăcălie used to be a normal thing, whenever we’d have a family BBQ, Țăcălie was the first thing we made. I really enjoyed it as a kid and took years to learn the proper way of cooking it. Anybody can easily cook Țăcălie but it takes multiple attempts to get all the little details right and perfect your method. This will only lead to the best of Țăcălie, so well cooked that angles will weep for a taste of it.

It wasn’t until high school and talking with some friends that I realised I am the only one who knows about Țăcălie.

I cooked some Țăcălie for some friends of mine and some couldn’t even dare taste it. For some it is quite extremely heavy (you’ll understand why shortly).

Warning: Vegans and vegetarians will flee when exposed to Țăcălie

Ingredients


Pig fat

(pig fat with rind, Romanians call it slană)

  • A fatty chunk of pig with it’s rind
  • Bread (preferably plain white, but it’s just a matter of taste)
  • Onions (white or red onions, not green onions)

For cooking you’ll also need a stick (size matters, anything between 30-50cm should be good enough). Make sure the stick is strong enough to hold the chunk of pig fat and not too dry (spoiler alert, it all goes above a fire).

Warning: Do not use a metal stick, the pig fat will slide right out after heating up. I recommend a cherry tree branch with a sharpened tip.

Instructions


Prep

To get things started slightly cut your pig fat on all sides (excluding the skin side). Do not make the cuts too deep, as it could make it fall apart later. We do this to allow for better and more evenly cooking.

Now cut the bread (slices, about 1cm thick, you can do thicker slices if you feel Țăcălie is too heavy for you) and onion (any shape or size you like, I prefer rings). Place the onions slices/rings on the slices of bread and set everything near your grill.

Bread with onion near grill

At this point you should start your fire. Do not let the flame burn out, Țăcălie is cooked using the flame not active charcoal. Take your stick and put the tip of it inside the fire (enough to chahr it, but don’t set it on fire). Stick your chunk of pig fat on the stick.

Slană on stick

Roasting

This bit might sound easy but it’s quite tricky to get it right. At this point you should have your chunk of slană on the stick, your fire is roaring and the bread with onions is nearby.

  1. Place the stick with slană inside the flame of your grill and slowly rotate it.
  2. When you see fat dripping from it; it’s time to pull out your stick.
  3. Go above the bread slices and allow for fat to drip on it.

Repeat this process until each slice is covered in as much fat as you wish (see final product bellow for reference).

Tip: You can use some of the dripping fat to keep the fire alive or to extend it to new sections of the BBQ, thus ensuring you equally activate your charcoal.

Tip: When dripping fat on the bread, feel free to slowly and gently press the slană on the bread.

Master tip: Sometimes the tip of your stick will set on fire. DO NOT PANIC, this is the best thing that could happen but be careful. You can now tilt your stick with the tip facing almost completely down. Keep the stick above the bread and watch how the tiny flame will make the pig fat drip.

After doing the above roasting a couple of times you will notice the exterior of the pig fat is cooked, at this point set it near your bread and start cutting the outer layer, revealing more raw uncooked pig fat ready for roasting.

The cooked fat is placed on top of the bread for added unhealthy pure tastiness.

Tip: At the point when you start cutting the first layer of cooked slană, you might want to take a short break and eat a slice, as Țăcălie is best served hot. Reheating it is an option.

Note: After cutting outer layers, make sure to make some more cuts on the surface to allow for more fat dripping and better roasting.

Again, repeat the above until all pig fat is cooked. Depending on the rind you have, it may be easy to bite trough and crunchy or extremely tough. It is comestible tho and I personally enjoy it.

This is how the final product should look like:

End product

Conclusion


If you weren’t disgusted by possibly the most unhealthy edible thing you’ve ever heard, then you should know a couple of things.

  • A common misconception/mis-expectation? is the taste. You can’t really taste raw fat or get any hint of the fat texture. The real taste is very oniony and smokey. The cooked fat is a little crunchy if cooked well.
  • It’s hard to explain in writing all the little things that make the cooking process easier and better, but you’ll learn and develop the method by practicing.
  • After eating this as an appetiser you might feel full and unable to enjoy the rest of the BBQ.
  • I am not responsible for any heart, brain, <insert organ name> disease/attack/failure. This dish is extremely unhealthy and should only be consumed on special occasions and in moderation! and never consume this if you already have health issues!