Visiting the Balkans this year? You’re in for a treat! Aside from being an underrated and beautiful region, there are some awesome gastronomic gems to be discovered. The food from this fascinating region might not be well known, but it’s delicious, hearty and you’ll be totally addicted by the time you leave! Here’s our list of the foods you can’t miss when travelling in the Balkans.
Let’s start with the good stuff: HARD LIQUOR. Slavic spirit rakija (pronounced ra-kee-ya) is a clear-as-day firewater that can contain as much as 65% alcohol… not your average nightcap! With a similar flavour to that of schnapps, rakija is bound to put fire in your belly and comes in all kinds of subtly fruity flavours from peach and grape, to quince and juniper. If you’re down to your last euros, we recommend slivovica (plum rakija), quite possibly the cheapest and strongest rakija you’re going to find. Knowing Serbian hospitality, you might even be lucky enough to buy a locally made bottle for 10 euros per litre! A word of warning, though: this is a drink that demands respect, so take it easy…
With a major thing for cheese, it was inevitable that this Greek dish would make the top 10. Saganaki is named after the frying pan used to make it, but put simply, it’s the most delectable cheesy starter you’ll ever hanker after. Essentially a pan-seared block of feta, kasseri or kefalotyri cheese, this dish stands up well on its own, but is usually served with a hunk of bread and topped with lemon juice. Let the melty moments begin!
Similar to Greek dolmades, these little rolls of goodness won’t last long at the dinner table. Spicy, rice-y, and meaty filling is tightly wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves before boiling, and the end result is an absolute dream when slathered with yogurt. The perfect addition to any Balkan mezze platter!
And…we’re back on the cheese. Could Bulgarian banitsa be the best thing since sliced bread? With layers of glazed filo pastry sandwiching a tasty, cheesy egg filling, of course it is! This doughy delight would grace every picnic, if I had my way, along with every other variation going: spinach, leek, meat and even sweet ones…
Don’t be put off by the way these tasty morsels are made! Yes, they’re a kind of pork rind with the fat melted off, but with a sprinkle of salt and a bit of garlic, these crispy bits are not much different from pork scratchings! Widely considered a winter food, it’s most often enjoyed as a snack or a side dish (but we’d enjoy them all year round, cholesterol warnings aside!)
Like a Croat crème caramel, this dish could easily gain Dubrovnik dessert divinity status! Named after the city’s famous rose liqueur Rozalin, rozata is a creamy baked custard pudding served chilled and drowned in the syrup. The rosy scent is so enticing, it probably won’t even make it past the oven!
Like savoury baklava, Balkan delicacies bureks are succulently thick hand pies made with layer upon layer of buttered filo pastry and meaty, cheesy and/or veggie filling. Step aside, Cornish pasty, I may have been converted for life!
Memories of nights on the lash may have been forever marred with the taste of regret and greasy kebabs, but hear me out on this one! Ćevapi are grilled flatbreads filled with juicy sausage meat, and then topped with sour cream, onions and feta. So essentially, they’re the caviar of kebabs! You definitely won’t regret trying this.
What’s not to like about Krempita? A gargantuan layer of cream custard squeezed between sheets of flaky pastry dough is enough to make mouths water, but the fluffy and light Napoleon-esque texure could tip you over the edge. Don’t leave without tasting a slice!
Eastern European wonders tulumbi are almost like Macedonia’s answer to mini churros; little rolls of dough are fried and then soaked in honey and nuts. The intense sweetness and richness of these morsels is what makes them such a popular Balkan dessert. Be sure to bring some back; you might have a hard time finding them at home!