Balkan food is one of the most delicious foods out there. Yes, I may be a wee bit biased, but my friends from other ethnic backgrounds constantly ask me when my grandmother is going to make pita or where they can buy kajmak. There’s a reason why Eastern Europe has always been on those “Top 10 Places You Must Visit Before You Die” articles and that reason is food.
Čevapi are arguably one of the most popular foods in the Balkan area. They are small, grilled sausages that are typically served with some bread, either called lepina, kajmak, ajvar, and so on. But if you’re not into sausages, just squish a few čevapi together and you get a pljeskavica, which is essentially just a burger patty.
If you get Čevapi in Bosnia, you’ll probably be served by an older, European man who’ll tell you all about how he used to walk eight miles every day to get to school as he grills your food. Talk about entertainment!
Kajmak is a milk-based spread that is a bit sweet and a bit salty. It comes from your typical milk-producing animals, as well as water buffalo. Ajvar is a red bell pepper spread that is typically served with any meal that includes meat and bread.
Kajmak and ajvar are not spreads that are used lightly. They are typically used by the spoonful and shoveled into people’s mouths. Both of these can be bought at any local European market.
3. Suho Meso
Suho meso is smoked beef that is eaten in sandwiches, pizzas, soups, salads, and pretty much everything else since Eastern Europeans love meat. It’s a long process to make them and it is definitely something that takes practice to perfect, but here is the recipe if you have enough storage in your fridge to store meat for two weeks.
4. Punjene Paprike
Punjene paprike are delightful because you cut open a pepper and there’s a bunch of meat, rice, and vegetables inside it. It’s like a mini-surprise inside the pepper. This is one of my personal favorites because they aren’t too hard to make and are very filling. Currently sending a text to my dad to ask him if he could make some (pray for me).
Grah, also referred to as pasulj, is a bean soup. Although this does sound off-putting, a lot goes into it besides beans. Meat and vegetables help add to the flavor and healthiness of this soup. Tip: Cut up some hot dogs and put them in this soup. I used to do this as a kid all the time to make my American friends eat the soup with me.
Palačinke are just crepes that pretty much every European country has, but they are one of the most popular desserts in the Balkan area. Most Bosnian kids that I know started making palačinke by the age of seven because they’re really good and when our parents eventually thought we had too many, they stopped making them for us.
Palačinke can be sweet, with Nutella, jam, powdered sugar or whipped cream. Or they can be savory, with meat, cheese, and so on. Anything you could ever dream of being in a crepe, can be.
Many European and Middle-Eastern countries have a version of this due to empires ruling over many countries and all adapting to similar cultures (yay history lesson!), but these are very popular and taste soooo good. Japrak is made by wrapping grape leaves around meat and rice, as with most Balkan dishes. Some don’t have meat for all the vegetarians out there. If you’re ready to try it out, check out this recipe to make Bosnian japrak.
Hurmašica are sweet pastries drenched in syrup. They seem like they’d be dry inside, but they are so rich with flavor and are the complete opposite of dry (sorry, I hate the word moist.) These are very simple to make and you probably already have the ingredients in your home already, unless you’re like me and have a bottle of milk and a banana in your home.
The cool thing about pitas is that they come in many different variations. You can make a pita out of meat, cheese, potatoes, spinach and so on. They’re all pretty good and go well with kefir, which you’ve probably seen at your grocery store. If you’re interested in making a pita, my grandma would be very happy to teach anyone, but she doesn’t speak English.
Last, but definitely not least are oblatne. These are chocolate wafers and are typically diamond shape, so they look all fancy and pretty. The only problem with these is that you can never keep track of how many you’ve eaten, so you just keep going and that never ends well…