Sometimes referred to as Snejanka or "Snow White" salad, milk salad is a traditional side dish of Bulgaria that combines strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and dill. It became a popular food in Eastern Europe during the 20th century. Variations on the recipe can include lemon juice, vinegar, walnuts, mint, parsley, or other herbs. Milk salad more closely resembles a sauce than a salad and is often used to offset spicier dishes.
Milk salad is made by first straining plain yogurt through a cheesecloth for 30 minutes to rid it of excess moisture. A peeled, chopped cucumber is then added to the strained yogurt along with pressed garlic and salt to taste. Additional ingredients such as olive oil, dill, and walnuts are added. The milk salad is then refrigerated and served as a chilled accompaniment to the main course.
A similar recipe called tarator, or cold yogurt soup, is also found in Bulgarian cuisine. Like milk salad, tarator uses yogurt, cucumber, and garlic in combination with water or vinegar to give it a more soup-like consistency. Tarator is served primarily in the summer as a chilled dish similar to a gazpacho. Variations of this dish are found throughout southeast Europe and the Middle East, including Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Iran.
Bulgaria is located along the Black Sea in southeast Europe and was founded in the seventh century BCE. Its climate is diverse, varying from snow-capped peaks of the Balkan Mountains to the plains and coastal regions of the Black Sea. Until as recently as the 1990s, agriculture played a big role in Bulgaria's economy, with most of the foods in the modern Bulgarian diet produced within the country. The primary source of dairy for the Bulgarian people is yogurt and feta cheese derived from the milk of cows and goats.
The countries that surround it — Greece and Turkey to the south and Romania and Serbia to the north and west — often influence Bulgaria’s cuisine. Similar milk salad recipes appear in those cultures. Serbia and Croatia refer to this basic combination of ingredients as Tatarska salata, or Tartar salad, so called because it is similar in texture to tartar sauce. It is usually served with grilled minced meat. The Greek version, called tzatziki, is used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros, or served with bread or pita as an appetizer.