Bosnian Food 101

Pita, ćevapi, & burek. Photocred Kaleb Fulgham/Flickr

Whenever I travel, my general impression of a place is based on food. The food I have encountered in the Balkans never ceases to surprise my taste buds and I. Whether its traditional Bosnian dishes or modern vegetarian twists, travelers can fill their bellies without breaking the bank.

Traditional Dishes

Bosnia has three main food groups: dairy, bread, and meat. The cheese, creams, and milk from the region are unlike anything I’ve tasted before. The salty goat cheese, similar to feta in texture in color, goes great with salads, sandwiches, pasta…I slice and eat it by itself. If you see the words, “Vlasicki sir”, buy the cheese. In bulk. This cheese comes from the town of Travnik, a metropolis below the Vlašić Mountain, known for its goat cheese, medieval history, and as the birthplace of Noble Laureate Ivan “Ivo” Andrić.

On almost every corner and every town, you can find signs for pekaras, burek, and ćevapi. A pekara is a bakery that serving fresh breads and sandwiches, usually all for under 4km. Do not leave the Balkans without trying the burek. Burek is meat wrapped in phyllo dough, rolled into a large spiral and baked until the crust is golden brown. To find good burek, my advice is to go to a restaurant that only makes burek, usually with traditionally dressed women preparing the dishes in large stone ovens or baking it over coals. There are also meatless variations of burek stuffed with cottage cheese (sirnica), with spinach and cheese (zeljanica), and with potatoes (krompiruša).

Ćevapi or ćevapčići, is the Bosnian equivalent of a fast food hamburger. But don’t let that description dissuade you from trying the dish. Small minced sausages grilled and served in a thicker, fluffier version of a pita bread are typically served alongside a bed of rice and kaymak. If kaymak doesn’t come with the dish, ask your server for this rich and creamy condiment immediately.

Can you really find vegetarian options in Bosnia?

Yep, there is even vegan and gluten-free depending on your dietary restrictions/preferences. Although this can be difficult to find in smaller towns, shopskata salate (mixed salads) are almost always available and consist of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese. In Sarajevo, the capital of BiH, many restaurants have vegetarian sections to their menus or are more than willing to accommodate. Popular spots for veggie lovers in Sarajevo include Karuzo, Apetit, Barhana, Veggae, and Avlija.

Savory to Sweet

If you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, be sure to try the baklava almost anywhere in Bosnia. In Sarajevo, Baščaršija is filled with cake shops showcasing their baklava, sladoled (ice cream), and turkish delights. Remember, this country is known for their breads and creams, and when they pair it with fresh berries, figs, or local honey, desserts are never disappointing.

Vegetarian Bosnian dish from Restaurant Šadrvan in Mostar, BiH

Honey soaked baklava. Photocred Garrett Ziegler/Flickr

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