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the best of Serbian cuisine [Moved from International board]

saren Jul 3, 2008 05:15 AM

Hey, I noticed very little talk about Serbian/Montenegran cuisine on the board.

I made a list of foods I thought foriegners could enjoy sampling during a trip to Serbia, and Montenegro this summer. Hope you will like it, and maybe add (or edit) a few items to the list. Of course, I don't have descriptions for these foods because I have never tried them. I hope someone can help identify these dishes, and recommend more. Thanks.

Burek (in the mornings)
grilled chicken wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese
Sarma, Gibanica, Punjene paprika sa sirom, pohovani plavi patlidžan, Mešano meso, pljeskavica keimak, ajvar
Pasulj, Roštilj, proja (cornbread), sir (cheese) and kajmak (unique dairy),
Rakija plum brandy, Loza
suva pita sa orasima,orasnice

  1. Ruth Lafler Jul 6, 2008 07:24 PM

    Is ćevape also known as ćevapcici? They're finger-sized (my fingers, that is, about two inches long) pieces of ground meat (the ones I bought were a mixture of veal and pork) that are grilled like sausages. Delicious. The only other food I recognize on that list is ajvar, which is a spread or condiment made of red sweet peppers and eggplant -- variations (sometimes with tomatoes, sometimes just peppers) under similar names are prevalent in that region. Also very delicious.

    1. susancinsf Jul 7, 2008 12:30 PM

      I am very fortunate to have both a good friend/former colleague and a cousin in law who are both from Serbia. On your list, my favorite is sarma.(stuffed pickled cabbage) heavenly. but then, I love cabbage. By the way, for those who want to try it in the US, San Diego is a great starting place: one of the largest Serbian communities in the states. The SD Serbian Orthodox Church does at least one festival every year (for the New Year) that is open to the public, and they had great Sarma on the menu last time I went about two years ago. (of course, all the Serbs around me at the table were heard to mutter that it was good, but not up to 'old country' standards. :-))

      Sarma is apparently not uncommon in a number of cuisines from that part of the world. I think there was a thread about it on CH not that long ago.

      Anyway, I forwarded the list to my friend for translation and further thoughts, here is her reply:

      "....Burek – greasy piece of morning happiness, usually bought from the bakery/burek-stores (“burekdzinica”) and accompanied with the best yogurt in the world, to cut through the grease; layers of filo dought and soft white (farmers) cheese and oil. There are versions with meat and with nettle/spinach (these are similar to the Greek spanakopita but much greasier). Very Turkish and those meet/spinach varieties are more available in Bosnia. Many Albanian/muslim stores make burek. My favorite is “empty’ burek and in Novi sad (my hometown) only one store carried it – it is just filo and fat (no cheese), he, he…

      Gibanica – sort of home-made version of burek, with cream added to the cheese; uses more stuffing that filo – burek is more filo than stuffing. I used to have a good recipe for it.

      Grilled chicken wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese…. Not sure – there is “Karadjordjeva snicla” or maybe “chicken Cordon-blue” – restaurant food, not sure that there is some specific Serbian recipe here

      Gurmanska pljeskavica – I think it is a hamburger stuffed with something, usually cheese or “kajmak” (milk skim collected and aged for a couple of weeks)

      Sarma – stuffed (pickled) cabbage (your favorite)

      Punjene paprika – literally “stuffed peppers” ; they are usually stuffed with minced meet and spices and rice (never had them with cheese, but there is something like a pickled pepper stuffed with sheep’s cheese – something more like the Mexican dish

      Pohovani plavi patlidzan – breaded and fried eggplant

      Mesano meso – literally “mixed meet” – when you order it in a restaurant expect a huge platter of various grilled meats.

      Pljeskavica – a hamburger; the patty made of pork and beef, pepper, salt and chopped onions. Served on country-style bread, with spreads like ajvar (roasted pepper spread; they sell an excellent Bulgarian version in Longs, of all places. I love it! ), kajmak (see above), chopped onions…

      Pasulj – means beans; there are various ways of making it – bean soup, baked, baked and mashed, with paprika, oil and onions…

      Rostilj – means “grill”

      Proja – is “cornbread” but it is different that the American, southern version that I tried – it is made with more cornmeal than corn-flour, it is savory not sweet, uses no rising agent and can contain cheese or sourcream. Almost like a fatty baked polenta…

      Sir – cheese. After Longs managed to solve my ajvar cravings, and I discovered a pretty decent substitute (but still light-years away) for jogurt (by leaving the greek plain yogurt sit forgotten in a corner of my fridge for several weeks past its expiration date, to ferment a little more and then whipping it up so that it becomes more runny, so that I can drink it, like in Serbia), serbian farmers cheese and the variety of the young, tangy, creamy, mild, salty white pieces of heaven is something that I miss here a lot! Think of the whole spectrum of flavors and consistencies youcan imagine from ricota to feta. Well, luckilly this country provided me with the best selection of all the other variations (from cheese made in small boutique dairies in Marin, to imported French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian…you name it)

      Rakija – means”brandy”. The whole Balkans, including Greece and Turkey has their versions of “raki” (I think that that is how they call it); It can be “sljivovica” (plum brandy – “sljiva” means plum); loza (something like grappa, made with grapes; “loza” means vine), kruskovaca (pear brandy; if from william pear it is called “Viljemovka”); kajsijevaca (apricot brandy) etc…

      Suva pita sa orasima- something like a VERY dry baklava. A version of it also features as Serbian Christmas cake ( called “cesnica”)

      Orasnice – desert, like a hard candy, made of chopped wallnuts (“orah” means walnut), eggwhites, sugar, lemon juice and dried/baked in low teperature in the oven; I think I saw something like that here but am not sure how it is called.

      Cevapi – you will inevitably find it whereever they serve “rostilj” or “mesano meso”; Some of my American friends who had it in Serbia call it “Serbian sausages”, but I guess we don’t quite see it that way. It is made with ingredients similar to “pljeskavica” (see above) but are rolled between two hands into a sausage-shaped 3-4 inch pieces and grilled (no casing, hence no “sausage” ;-) ;

      There are a few others that are my favorites. These listed here are Serbia-wide (with Turkish origins) food. I come from Vojvodina, that had central-european/Hungarian/German influences in addition to Turkish and are little known (or liked) in the rest of Serbia. They include deserts/noodles with loads of ground poppy-seeds, sugar and lemon; potato dumplings stuffed with plums and rolled in fried breadcrumbs with sugar etc. I also love mousaka, roasted-pepper salad (whole rosated peppers with garlic, and oil/vinegar dressing); cucumber-garlic-dill-yogurt salad; My favorite dairy (yet another one) is has been increasingly harder to find there is sour sheep’s milk “kiselo ovcije mleko”. There is nothing more refreshing in summer days that that. Slightly bitter, slightly tangy, but fatty happy sour sheep’s milk...

      I love baked stuffed carp, fish soup made of different fish-heads, of and “girice” – grilled sardines…

      Ok, now I have to do some work. Writing this reply made me terribly hungry and I am supposed to be on a diet after I ate so much bread and Cowgirl Creamery’s “Red Hawk” cheese this weekend…")

      Hmmm. Clearly my friend is a Chowhound at heart! I will encourage her to start posting on the boards!

      2 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf
        Eat_Nopal Jul 8, 2008 08:44 AM

        L.A. also has a CH board favorite Serbian in Metro Cafe.... its a straight up dinner with emphasis on breakfast, tucked into the ground floor of a Travel Lodge in Mar Vista / West LA. Several years back someone noticed a bunch of rough, slavic men hanging out, smoking in the sidewalk tables... eating stuff that was definitely NOT on the menu. Word got out, there was no "poltical / social backlash" against its Serbian identity, and the brothers who run the place have gradually increased the percentage of the menu dedicated to Serbian / Montenegrin dishes... still the best stuff is still off the menu... the secrets are easily unlocked by talking Football with them (I believe they are fans of Red Star Belgrade).

        1. re: susancinsf
          pinstripeprincess Jul 10, 2008 11:52 AM

          i was only recently introduced to serbian food and found that i really enjoy it all quite a bit.

          so far my favourite cevapi is more bosnian style and has veal and lamb in it (no pork, muslim) but the bread is probably the best thing about it. the chewy sweet but mild flavour is just so great. i'd use it for everything if it were more readily available. they also freeze incredibly well.

          kajmak is great! slap it between two pieces of bread or slather it on top of any meat sandwich and it is super delicious. it's rich and creamy like a cream cheese but 10x better. it's like it has the oily fattiness of butter enriched into it.

          i also love prebenac. for being just white beans stewed with paprika, they are fantastic and terribly addicted. they're softed to a near pasty mush and the paprika is mixed in so well that i nearly thought it was a tomato paste. at a serbian dinner this was the dish i kept going back for.

          there's still so much more for me to try.

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