Hey, Hey We’re the Moti

What’s this? There’s yet another minority people in Romania? Yes it’s true. And they’re called the Moti (motes).

There’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty about who exactly these people are. I only started asking questions when I kept traveling on a very busy street in Cluj that is called Motilor (of the Moti) and wondered what it all meant.

What is not disputed is that Tara Motilor (Land of the Moti) is a kind of highland area in Transylvania and the Moti people live way up in those mountains, relying almost exclusively on animal husbandry and some farming. Apparently they (sometimes) grow freakishly large vegetables (esp potatoes) and very sturdy cows due to the steep, unforgiving terrain.

If it helps, think of the Scottish Highlands and then that’s almost exactly what kind of landscape and environment Tara Motilor is.

In most senses, most Moti are also Romanians – they speak Romanian and hold to Romanian customs. The three most famous Moti of all time were Horea, Ciosca and Crisan, three guys who played an instrumental role in (ethnic Romanian) Tranyslvanian nationalism.

Yet on the other hand, Moti sometimes are blonde and have blue eyes, two physical traits almost non-existent amongst other Romanians. They also have their own traditions, songs, dress and foods.

Do you remember the mystery food from the last post?

Congratulations go to Ghost Dog for guessing the correct answer: Balmos (bawl-moesh).

The food in question is a special kind of mamaliga, with the name borrowed directly from Hungarian (bálmos).

This recipe is so old skool that it is rarely made anywhere except for the people in Tara Motilor, and then only rarely. I had to do quite a bit of digging to get to the recipe and the history of it, and now I can see why it’s such an exclusive dish to make.

To begin with, you have to boil the ingredients at least three hours – that’s quite a commitment. This is principally a rural dish made by animal herders (sheep or cow), so besides corn meal (for the mamaliga part) you also need “green” cheese (freshly made) from either a sheep or a cow. I’ve also seen recipes that say a little wheat flour is necessary. But the critical step is that it must be boiled in milk (and quite often sour cream as well), whereas mamaliga is boiled in water.

Basically most of the liquid evaporates and the corn meal (and wheat flour) becomes a kind of super-saturated edible soft bread pudding, packed with the flavor of all the things it was boiled in.

I’m still waiting on somebody to explain the odd stove the balmos is being cooked on, which you can see is a combination of mud-brick and metal stove pipes.

Below is some footage of the world’s largest balmos (an event almost identical to the 210 chickens one), this one made in a special pot created by a family of pot-making gypsies, cooked in Alba County/Judet, right in the heart of Moti Country.

Best part: around minute 6:21 the old lady saying “Stim sa facem”. Priceless!

I’ve actually had the good fortune to visit Tara Motilor and it is, unquestionably, gorgeous. It is within this mountainous region you will find the super famous Scarisoara Ice Cave, after which a famous brand of ice cream in Romania is named.

Since one of the principal streets in my kingdom (Gruia Cartierul Minunilor) is named after Emil Racovita, the guy who fully explored and popularized this cave, I have to highly recommend it to anyone visiting the region.


7 thoughts on “Hey, Hey We’re the Moti

  1. Sam, the article says that the big pot (ceaun, căldare) was made by the “căldărari” Gypsies from Târgu Cărbuneşti and Târgu Jiu (Gorj county, Oltenia). They are not from Alba county and they didn’t cook the balmoş.

    Here’s the quote in Engrish:

    “The big pot, of 850 kg (1873.92 lb.) where it was made the record was manually made by the gypsy experts in pots from Targu Carbunesti – Targu Jiu, the only ones who engaged to make such a masterpiece.”


  2. From Wikipedia:

    “Ţara Moţilor’s inhabitants are known as “moţi”. Some scholars consider the ‘moţi’ as descendants of the Celts, because of their blonde hair and blue eyes, elements more frequent here than among other Romanians; however, the hypothesis is not accepted by mainstream historians due to its lack of consistency. Other scholars believe that they are the descendants of Slavs, for the same very reasons, or of the Alans. Yet another group of scholars consider them the descendants of Germanic tribes (Gepids). Due to their blonde hair and blue eyes, so far seventeen theories regarding their origins have been formulated. The first, and most probable and accepted theory, is that they are direct descendants of the Dacians.”

    BTW, Emil Racoviţă explored Antarctica in 1897-9 and was the first to collect botanical and biological samples from beyond the Antarctic Circle. He was also the co-founder of biospeleology, the study of flora and fauna living in caves.



  3. Sam,no offence intended…but where the hell do you see gipsies in this video?Itake it you need glasses man!…


    1. I didn’t “see” gypsies, I read the accompanying article, which had many interviews with the gypsies in question as well as listing their names :D

      Click on the word “Alba” right above the video.


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