How To Make Shopska Salad. Kempinski’s Signature Dish

Jun 02, 2014 No Comments by

Kempinski's Signature Dish: The Shopska Salad

The Shopska salad, The Bulgarian culinary tradition, is now the signature dish of Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko. Bansko regulars will be very familiar with the national culinary icon; the Shopska salad but, like me, will not know it’s history

FULL DISCLOSURE: Kempinski Grand Arena are sponsors of Bansko Blog, whilst I never recommend anything I do no believe in, please be aware of this fact.

So when Emiliya from the Kempinski Grand Arena in Bansko sent me their signature dish  press release, I was intrigued — especially as she included their recipe. They say that their version “…not only represents the spirit of the hotel’s local region, but also reflects the company philosophy of being surprisingly daring in creating traditions and memorable.”


How to make a Shopska salad

Shopska salad has been the symbol of the Bulgarian cuisine for ages. It’s a cold salad made from the following ingredients:

  • four ripe tomatoes
  • two long cucumbers
  • an onion
  • a red or green pepper
  • 1/3 a bunch of parsley
  • two tablespoons of olive oil
  • three tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • a cup (1/2 lb) of Bulgarian cheese

The recipe for preparing Shopska salad is well known and easy to complete.

Chop all the ingredients and sprinkle with the oil and vinegar, and then mix it all together. Finally, grate and add the cheese on top and… voilà!

The press release says: “The ingredients of the salad are in absolute colour consistency with the landscape of the country. The white cheese symbolises the snowy peaks of the Bulgarian mountains. The green cucumbers reflect the virgin green Bulgarian forests. Whilst the red tomatoes and peppers represent both themselves and together with the onion and the famous Bulgarian red and pink roses cultivated in the Rose Valley, one of the most fertile lands in the region.”


The Shopska and the Bulgarian national flag

“The salad is highly appreciated by both international and Bulgarian guests of the hotel” says Nikola Todorov, the sous-chef of Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko.

“More than 1,000 salads were served within our Mediterranean Restaurant and by Room Service in the past year. What is interesting to all guests is our original presentation of Shopska salad is the likeness of the Bulgarian national flag. This authentic arrangement surprises even the locals who are already familiar with this salad, but have never seen it served like this before.”


The Shopi and the Bulgarian tomato

In the beginning of the 20th century, ripe tomatoes were underestimated and rarely used as a cooking ingredient throughout the country because they were considered bad for the health. That is why when raw versions of the salad first emerged in the mid-1950s, they were considered a bold culinary innovation. At the beginning, the salad featured mainly tomatoes and was served without any cheese.

The grated cheese was added for the first time in the mid-1960s. This add-on has become the most significant step towards establishing the salad in its present form because the cheese helps soften the vegetables and creates a unique and recognisable taste. During the 1970s, the salad began to appear in almost every restaurant and home throughout the country. Because of its mass popularity, it gained the status of a “typical Bulgarian salad”.

The salad is named after an ethnic sub group of people known as shopi see wikipedia link

“The noting of Shopi as a “group” began in the 19th-century migrational waves of poor workers from the so called Shopluk, poor areas (villages) beyond Sofia.

The Bulgarian scholars put Shopi as a subgroup of the Bulgarian ethnos. As with every ethnographic group, the Bulgarian Academy notes, the Shopi in Bulgaria consider themselves the true and most pure of the Bulgarians, the mountaineers around Turnovo claim their land as true Bulgarian from time immemorial, etc.

The predominant colour of the Shopi’s traditional clothing is white. The same as the grated white cheese that covers the top of Shopska salad.


Shopska and Rakia food matching

The salad is most often consumed as an appetiser in perfect combination with the hotel’s signature drink – Rakia (similar to the Italian grappa). Rakia is the
traditional drink of Bulgaria. It is a clear alcoholic beverage made from the distillation of fermented fruits.

There are different types of Rakia, all depending on what fruit it is made of. This could be grapes, plums, apricots, pears, apples, cherries, figs or quinces. In Bulgaria, the most popular Rakia is made from grape.

Kempinski guests who are willing to experience the authenticity of the Bulgarian cuisine are welcome to savour the exceptional combination of Shopska salad with Rakia at the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko’s restaurants.


My tomato growing experiment

All this talk of shopska salad raises an important point and one major reason to come to Bulgaria:

The tomato.

The “pink” variety especially is simply out of this world in flavour. In fact slicing fresh in-season tomatoes on a plates need nothing added. A little salt and a good olive oil if you must… but the intensity and flavour are just one of several reasons I have planted tomatoes this year. We have gone for growing a cherry variety as the seller believed this was suitable for a hot south facing terrace, grown in tubs.

You can buy vegetable plants in markets. We bought our plants in a little market in Plovdiv and am already excited as they grow and flower.

Stay tuned for the results! You will also find in the autumn these tomatoes being sold in jars. Jarred tomatoes, a lots of other jarred goodies, are kindly donated to me from extended family who know. I love using them for tomato based sauce, curries etc throughout the whole year. It is also quite normal to be given a bottle of  home made rakia from friends and family parents who have space to do so.

This stepping back in time is a feature of life in Bulgaria. A place where real, mainly organic ingredients, can easily be found and enjoyed.

It is one of the joys of Bulgaria that never ceases to be a pleasure for me. For travellers to Bansko / Bulgaria then be sure to search out town markets and road side jars/vegetables. Subscribe on the right for more tips and info including my new podcast series coming soon. (As always…No spam. Ever. Guaranteed)



About Kempinski

Created in 1897, Kempinski Hotels is Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group. Kempinski’s rich heritage of impeccable personal service and superb hospitality is complemented by the exclusivity and individuality of its properties. Kempinski now manages a portfolio of 75 five-star hotels in 32 countries and continues to add new properties in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Each one reflects the strength and success of the Kempinski brand without losing sight of its heritage.

For further information: Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko ▪ 96, Pirin Street ▪ 2770 Bansko ▪ Bulgaria Tel. +359 749 88888 ▪ Fax +359 749 88560 ▪


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Do you like a Shopska salad? Do you like BG salads? Where is you favourite salad? Feel free to comment below.

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About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.
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