Sarmi is a traditional meal in Bulgaria, it is present in every Bulgarian home on Christmas Eve.
Minced meat (usually beef, pork, veal, or a combination thereof), rice, onions, and various spices, including salt, pepper and various local herbs are mixed together and then rolled into large plant leaves, which may be cabbage (fresh or pickled), chard, patience, vine leaf (fresh or pickled) or broadleaf plantain leaves. The combination is then cooked together in boiling water for few hours. While specific recipes vary across the region, it is uniformly recognized that the best cooking method is slow boiling in large clay pots. A special ingredient, flour browned in fat, is often added at the end of the process. Other fine-tuned flavors include cherry tree leaves in some locations; other recipes require the use of pork fat—the number of minor differences is virtually innumerable across the region. Vegetarian variants as well as those made with fish exist.
Bulgarian people overwhelmingly use sour cabbage as opposed to fresh cabbage. At the end of the autumn, families traditionally prepare the sour cabbage (as whole cabbage, or as individual leaves, but not shredded) for sarma-making. Another kind of sarma are those rolled in (grape) vine leaves— smaller and with slightly different taste.
Sarma is normally a heavy dish (though families are increasingly using healthier options such as olive oil or other oils instead of the traditional pork fat). Thus, it is usually eaten during winter. Traditionally, they are served along with polenta or potatoes, which are sometimes mashed. Other optional add-ons include sour cream, yogurt and horseradish.
Cabbage rolls served in tomato sauce, though common in North America, are much less common in Southeastern Europe. Unlike its Polish or Ukrainian equivalents, the filling is predominantly meat, as opposed to rice—in fact, it is only in recent times that rice has been added to sarma. Originally sarma was made with barley.
It is virtually impossible to make sarma for a small number of people, unless they are willing to help themselves to huge servings. Traditionally, a pot filled with sarme/sarmale is usually prepared for an entire family. Sarma is often served as a one of the main dishes during wedding ceremonies. In diasporic communities, it is often cherished as a reminder of their former homelands.
Special Thanks to Wikipedia