We were first introduced to Balkan cuisine in Sarajevo on a cold, wet, wintery day. That’s when we tasted Cevapcici – one of Bosnia’s favorite dishes.
It consisted of rolled, spiced meatballs (about the size and shape of your thumb) that were grilled, then placed inside the most delicious, fluffy flatbread. The meatballs were made from a blend of ground meats (beef, pork, and lamb) and the proper technique was to eat it with your hands by tearing off pieces of the bread and wrapping it around a meatball. Talk about finger-lickin’ good!
Since then we’ve been hooked on Balkan food and can’t wait to indulge in some new taste sensations. Here’s what we want to try:
1. Pasulj in Serbia – James was raised on beans; I was weaned on potatoes. So anything in that starchy food group is comfort food for us. This Serbian bean soup infused with smoked meat ticks all the boxes.
2. Baklava in Macedonia – Of course we’ve had baklava before – that honey-dripping-down-your-arms sweet treat. But we’ve learned that it’s the honey that makes all the difference – every region has a different flavor.
3. Katchamak in Bulgaria – What do you get when you combine polenta, butter, and cheese? Katchamak! I just like saying the word, but I’m probably mispronouncing it.
4. Teleshko Vareno in Bulgaria – This long-simmered, traditional beef and vegetable soup is the epitome of slow food.
5. Byrek in Serbia – We first experienced this meat-filled pastry in Sarajevo, where it is called “burek” and sold like fast food. The lady in the market handed us a warm, foil wrapped packet; we sat down on the curb and inhaled it. James looked up sheepishly and said, “We forgot to take a photo!”
6. Caprese Salad from Montenegro – It’s hard to beat this simple salad made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. We first had it on its namesake Island of Capri (but made with arugula instead of basil) and fell in love with it.
7. Shopska Salad in Bulgaria – I love a good salad, and this national dish of Bulgaria has my name all over it. It’s made from tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, roasted peppers, sirene (white brine cheese) and topped with oil and vinegar. James won’t like it so he’ll have to get an extra helping of … baklava!
8. Ajvar in Serbia – Now this one really has me intrigued. It’s a relish made from roasted red peppers, garlic, and sometimes eggplant and chili peppers. It can be sweet, piquant, or hot, and is know as “Serbian Vegetable Caviar.” Sign me up!
9. Pastrmajlija in Macedonia – Probably all I have to say is this: Macedonian Pizza! This oval-shaped bread pie is topped with diced, smoked meat and eggs. James has already signed up for a double portion.
10. Plum Rakjia … Everywhere! – From what we’ve been told, no Balkan meal is complete without a little plum brandy. We wouldn’t want to break tradition.
Do you have any other tasty dishes to recommend?
1. Ivana Sokolović via Wikimedia Commons
2. Kristijantopalov via Wikimedia Commons
3. Bin im Garten via Wikimedia Commons
4. 663highland via Wikimedia Commons
5. BlerimBalaj via Wikimedia Commons
7. Zhelyazkov via Wikimedia Commons
8. Ivana Sokolović via Wikimedia Commons
9. Slavica Panova via Wikimedia Commons
10. Blue via Wikimedia Commons