My romanian meals: Bean soup with pork knuckle

Romanian people are very proud of their culinary traditions. I never understood why, until some days ago when I discovered a cookbook written by Radu Anton Roman, a well known culinary journalist. The book is called “Romanian cuisine, wines and customs”. My mouth was watering just looking at it. That’s how this new blog category, “My romanian meals”, borned. I want to revive my childhood memories and rediscover the meals I have enjoyed but have forgotten since I’m living abroad.

This bean soup it’s a romanian staple and I remember eating it since ever. There’s a saying in Maramures, if you eat many beans during your childhood, you become a big and strong man. I’m pretty sure my parents wanted me to become “the strongest man in the word”.

In romania we call it “Ciorba de fasole boabe cu ciolan afumat”. The word “ciorba” is improperly translated soup but there is no other English word to describe it. “Ciorba” is actually a slightly sour soup composed by vegetables and sometimes meat. To understand how important “ciorba” is in Romania you must think at the cheese for the french or the tea for the english.

The recipe I’ve chosen is the one I found in the cookbook which is slightly different from the one my mother was doing. Back home, my family was doing a hungarian type of bean soup which is not sour and it has a mix of wheat flour and oil that we call “rantas” (in France they call it roux). I will try my family recipe when I’ll start an hungarian category. In the meantime let’s enjoy this romanian soup.

Bean soup with pork knuckle
Serves 6
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
  1. 800g red beans (already cooked)
  2. 1 kg smoked pork knuckle
  3. 20 black peppercorns
  4. 2 carrots (medium size)
  5. 1 parsnip (medium size)
  6. 2 onions (medium size)
  7. 1/2 stalk of celery
  8. 2 well ripened tomatoes (medium/big size)
  9. 200 ml tomato sauce
  10. 2 tbsp apple vinegar
  11. 1 tsp sugar
  12. 5 tbsp of fresh tarragon (chopped)
  13. 3 sprigs of parsley
  14. 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  15. 1 tsp paprika
  16. salt (at the end if the pork wasn't salty enough)
  1. 1. Put the pork knuckle in around 3 liters of cold water with the peppercorns, over medium heat and covered. Let simmer for an hour, skimming the foam every now and then.
  2. 2. In the mean time, cut in small pieces the: onions, carrots, parsnip, celery and tomatoes.
  3. 3. After one hour of simmering add the vegetables, the thyme, the paprika, the sugar and the vinegar. Let simmer for another hour. and keep skimming every now and then.
  4. 4. After two hours of simmering, take the pork knuckle out of the soup and add instead the tomato sauce and the cooked beans. Let simmer for another 15 minutes.
  5. 5. Chop the pork knuckle in small bits and throw them back in the pot.
  6. 6. Chop the tarragon and the parsley and add to the pot when finished. Adjust the saltiness if needed.
  7. 7. Serve with raw sliced onion and salt.
  1. 1. If you use dried beans, put them to sit in water for the night and then add them to the pot at the beginning, with the pork knuckle.
Darling, à table!

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