Friday, May 6, 2011

Food, Glorious Food

The Serbian cuisine, just like Serbian culture, implies not only region elements connected to Serbia, but other parts of former Yugoslavia as well. Great influences have been marked on the whole cooking process due to peasantry, which also influenced the folk craft, music and arts.

Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, during the last five centuries, Serbia has had not only cultural influences, but cooking ones as well. Special traditional dishes made in Serbia today have common roots with the dishes prepared in Turkey. The whole Serbian cuisine is derived from a mixture of influences coming from Mediterranean, especially Greek influences, Hungary, Turkish and Austrian cuisines.

A list of traditional food and the best descriptions I could muster up:
Kačamak: made from corn flour, I was told it's like polenta if you know what that is, I didn't. It's a bland breakfast dish that people top with ketchup, cheese, meat, ground hot pepper (as in jalapeno, not the spice) etc.
Kačkavalj: white cheese from cows made and consumed in Southern Serbia, feta cheese is also really popular around the Balkans
Sarma: cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, spices, and minced beef
Punjena paprika: peppers stuffed with rice, spices, and minced beef
Podvarak: meat roasted in sauerkraut
Musaka: my favorite meat dish, minced beef mixed with eggs, onions, and spices, layered with sliced and seasoned potatoes, and baked. I just cooked this with my host mom today!
Gibanica: cheese/egg pastry
Proja: corn bread
Rakija: Serbian/Balkan brandy, plum, apple, apricot, quince, and grape are popular flavors
Prebranac: my favorite Serbian dish, spiced and seasoned baked beans, they sound plain but they're delicious. Plus their served in the pots shown in this post which I love.
Ajvar: a roasted red pepper and eggplant spread

Srpski roštilj ~ Serbian barbecue/grill

Serbians are very prideful of their grilled meats and for good reason.
Cevapčići: small rolls of mixed minced meat served with onions
Pljeskavica: a super popular dish, it's similar to a hamburger but it's grilled with spices and has a wider circumference than a hamburger, but it's just about 1/2 inch thick. At kafanas these are served plain traditionally, without a bun, but at street stands the bun envelopes the patty and you can top it with kajmak, ajvar, mayonnaise, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, sour cream, or ketchup. Even I think pljeskavicas are really tasty, and I don't really care for hamburgers. The bun called lepinja is a Serbian flatbread. It's also wider than a hamburger bun to match the pljeskavica's shape and it's a lot more yummy than a typical bun. This flatbread is also what they serve at restaurants and when I first tried it it sort of reminded me of pita bread.
Pljeskavica man! This is my favorite pljeskavica place and I've gone there enough that he knows me and asked me to take a picture of him to "remember [he] makes the best pljeskavica in the world"

Pljeskavica shop

Karadjordje: named after the Serbian Prince Karadjordje, rolled pork or steak stuffed with cheese or kajmak, breaded and baked, served with roasted potatoes and tartar sauce
Mućkalica: a mix of various meats and vegetables, usually red peppers, eggplants, onions, tomatoes and veal or pork
Pečenje is the process of roasting meat by rotating it, this is how my host grandparents cook their meat in their village and how many restaurants cook meat

Typical breakfast: prženice is like french toast but it's not sweet. You scramble eggs, add milk, dip the bread in the mix, and fry the bread on the stove. Initially I was craving cinnamon and nutmeg and maple syrup but it's actually really tasty as a savory breakfast with ketchup, cheeses, peanut butter (from the Jif I was shipped, people here are repulsed by this divine spread)

Red peppers soaked in spices and oil, very customary

Fish in Serbia mostly come from the Dunav (Danube in English) river. This is a meal from Sokobanja where a platter of four fish was presented with potatoes, rice and mushrooms, and french fries were on the side. In the top left there's a cream colored spread resting on leaves. It's delicious and it's called kajmak.

The first half of the meal above consisted of salad, kajmak, and bread. Kajmak is perhaps the most unhealthy Serbian/Balkan food that I adore. It's what you get when you skim the top layer of simmered milk. It's essentially milk fat but it's oh so delicious. Warm bread with melted kajmak mmmmmm

This was a group meal at the Matka Canyon. Before we left to explore the canyon by boat and foot we asked the waiter if he could prepare something for the seven of us (5 group members, BY program director Ceca, and our Macedonian guide) and this is what he produced. Very delicious and impressive. We had two kilos of carp (the restaurant's speciality), tavce gravce (Macedonian prebranac/baked beans), assorted meats and salads, potatoes, fries, bread, ajvar, and seasoned mushrooms

Table at our favorite kafana in Belgrade

Typical serving bowls and put in center of table with help yourself and sharing attitude

Farmer's market! I often come by here for fruits

Table view of the first meal in Serbia, meat, bread, typical salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, and sometimes cucumbers and onions

My first meal: breaded chicken stuffed with pepper and cheese and spices. I distinctly remember feeling really cold, jetlagged, and confused that first night so I wasn't exactly a fan of this first meal, but since I have grown oh so fond of Srpska kuhinja (Serbian food, literally Serbian kitchen).

Typical dinner with company. Andres' host mom in Nis prepared this for us, cucumber and mixed green salads, sarma to the left of the cucumbers: cabbage wrapped around a paste of ground meat, rice, and spices; punjena paprika: pepper stuffed with mince meat and cheese or veggies, bread of course, cheese with olives,

Spreads for bread. Pre-meal. Beans, pepper, vegetables, ajvar, kajmak

Salads can be shared or individually ordered, and they usually accompany the main meal or come just before, there's not a customary finish the salad then move to the entree

Slatko: a fruit preserve, more sweet and liquidy than jam. I've had strawberry, plum, blueberry, and cherry, It's traditional for honored guests to be greeted with a spoonful of slatko, literally meaning sweet.

Sveti Nikola meal, or half of it at least (only about 1/2 the food could fit on the table at once)

Orthodox Christmas bread with a cross and different shapes, a birds for peace, grapes for prosperity, and I can't quite make out the others

Koljivo made from wheat seeds, sugar, and walnuts, is served as you enter the host's house on their Slava or other special occasions. Each person gets a spoonful.

Christmas feast: only for 5 people, this was fancier and larger than usual but included regular items: turkish salad--peas, mayonnaise, beans, corn, carrot, kiseo kupus--sour cabbage salad, peppers cooked in oil and spices

Homemade pizzas, some things are universal. Perhaps these look usual but actually there's a layer of ham between a thin layer of tomato sauce and a layer of cheese. And this isn't how it's eaten either, people put ketchup or more tomato sauce on top before consumption.

This was food for six...

Full table view. It was my host sister's friend's birthday and we ordered a bunch and just shared it, choreographing the passing of trays as we went along. Usually at kafanas people order to share but often when it's just our group we order individually because we all have our favorites.

I know this is a long and perhaps tedious post but I did the best I could to give an all-around understanding of Srbska kuhinja ~ Serbian kitchen/cooking. The food is really yummy and it will be missed!

No comments:

Post a Comment