Special Interests - Flavors of local food & drink
Serbia has a lot to offer to hedonists and eating out to catch local flavors is an unforgettable experience and a highlight for many visitors. When spending time in Belgrade or elsewhere in Serbia, make sure you try the local dishes. The coffee, hamburgers, and pizzas are not the same as you're used to at home, but they are terrific. Be prepared for the difference and to enjoy it. The prices are low for western visitors, so go ahead and indulge yourself. Be aware though, if you are a vegetarian Serbia might not be the right place for you!
Serbian cuisine is a reflection of the historical influences in this area. The two powers which left a great impression on the region are the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) and the Austria-Hungarian Empire. So, distinctive for Kosovo are different types of pies and typical Turkish pastries, such as tulumbe and baklave. In Vojvodina, under the influence of Austro-Hungarian culture, the cuisine contains lots of dough, noodles and fish, while in the south of Serbia you will find different types of meals from peppers. European influences in Vojvodina and Oriental influences in South Serbia have met and merged in Šumadija, the center of Serbia.
Local favorites are ćevapčići (small rolls of mixed minced meat), which are eaten with raw onion and warm bread. Pljeskavica,another extremely popular and tasty dish, is the actual ancestor of the hamburger, minced meat sprinkled with spices and grilled like beefsteak. You will come across all kinds of grilled meat, sarma (stuffed cabbage, minced beef and pork with rice enveloped in pickled cabbage or vine leaves), stuffed peppers, Serbian beans, podvarak (roast meat in sauerkraut), musaka (minced pork or beef mixed with eggs and potatoes and then baked), etc.
The real Serbian dish, which cannot be found on any menu in the world, is kajmak. Kajmak is what you take off the milk to make it low fat, and is considered the best part of the milk. Yes, it is full of milk fat, but it's delicious. This is one of the oldest specialties from this region, the only one that cannot be produced in industrial production without losing its well-known look and taste. Beside kajmak, sauerkraut is also one of the few originally Serbian specialties. However, up to the middle of the last century Serbian cuisine was based on soupy dishes. Even today Serbian bean soup is one of the best Serbian specialties. Beside different chowders and soups, milk and dairy products were obligatory on the dining table, particularly kajmak, along with kačamak, cicvara, popara (meals with extraordinary taste which are today nearly forgotten), proja (cornbread) and gibanica, which could also be considered as Serbian national dishes. The real Serbian gibanica is a pie made from thin layers of dough with plenty of cheese, kajmak and eggs. If homemade yogurt is served with it, then the pleasure is complete. We definitely shouldn't forget ajvar, a specialty made from grilled red peppers unique for its taste and beauty of colors. The best combination with ajvar is homemade smoked meat, which you can find all over the world, but here is prepared in a particular way.
A meal of smoked meat, hot pogača (homemade bread), cheese and kajmak won't need anything else! Beside ajvar, very good salad is known as Serbian salad, a mixture of tomato, pepper, cucumber, onion and hot pepper. If you add little bit of cheese, then you'll get Šopska salad, which is equally good as Serbian. Roasted peppers with a dressing of garlic, vinegar, and oil is one of the most popular salads in Serbia. But this is just the beginning of your "torture", because now you will get unavoidable roast pork and roast lamb. In Serbia every big holiday, family feast, wedding and basically any important occasion must be accompanied with good roast pork or roast lamb. If you survive all this, at the end of each meal you definitely must drink good Turkish, actually Serbian coffee, since the Turks prepare coffee differently. Serbian or not, coffee is one of the most important rituals in every Serbian home and restaurant.
Wine in Serbia has approximately 700 species. Differences in configuration and composition of terrain, climate and other factors are reflected in diversity and quality of grapes. Vintners in the territory of Serbia have been producing wine for more than 2 millenniums. The first planted vineyards date from the first century at the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus, in the vicinity of Sirmijum. In Middle Ages, during the time of emperor Dushan, vintners made the longest ceramic vine slope in the world at a length of 22 km. This slope was in two branches leading to Dry river and Great Will all the way to imperial capital in Prizren! Barrels remaining from that time are protected by UNESCO.
The greatest number of vineyards in the present day are spread along rivers - Southern, Western and Great Morava in central Serbia and along river Sava, Tisa and Danube in Vojvodina. Serbia is producing large quantities of the finest quality wines, which generally carry names of the areas they are produced in. Wine is drank every day in households, restaurants, taverns, bars, cafe‘s, clubs and other places. However, it is still best to drink in the basements of the old wine sellers, listening to their stories about grapes, methods of production, and local legends. Frushkogora flavored wine Bermet is the most authentic Serbian wine, and Rajac and Rogljev are the most authentic Serbian wine basements. These are both located in the mountains of eastern Serbia, as there is nothing to distract sellers from the delicate processes of production of wine.
Rakija is a traditional Serbian strong alcoholic drink. There are over 100 kinds, made of all possible combinations of fruits and healthy herbs. It is no wonder that the first Serbian patent was a kettle for making rakija! In these areas, due to terrain, altitude and ground quality, are grown a large number of high quality fruit types, so it’s logical that rakija, produced under the watchful eye of an experienced master, is of high quality. Most famous and the best is shljivovica(plum rakija), and than komovica, apricot rakija and vilijamovka(pear rakija). In addition to these favorites are grape rakija, mulberry rakija, juniper rakija, cherry rakija, quince rakija, and others made of various healthy herbs. The percentage of alcohol varies from 20-55%. Those containing 20% of alcohol are a soft rakija that is usually used for making liqueurs and Shumadija tea. Those containing 40-55% alcohol are called prepechenica or “chilly rakija”- double distilled rakija. Rakija is good to drink, for health or joy, and when it gets cold an excellent choice is "Shumadija tea"- caramelized boiled brandy. It is important only to drink it in good company.