We tell you what to eat and drink in Bosnia.
The Great Balkan Ride sets off from Sarajevo, before heading through some of Europe’s most underrated scenery. The Bosnian capital is famous for its turbulent past and picturesque historical sights, but it is also home to a rich cafe culture, and a delicious culinary possibilities. While Bosnia, and the Balkans at large, may not be famous for their cuisine, once you know what to eat and drink in Bosnia, we’re sure you will enjoy it.
One thing you quickly realise when travelling throughout the Balkans is that they share a lot of the same culture, but each country claims much of it as original to them. Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro all share several “national dishes”, not to mention a common language. However, though burek is eaten all across the Balkans, everyone can agree where it originates, as the most popular version is known as the “Sarajevski burek”. It’s the perfect take away food, available on plenty street corners, and it certainly fills you up. It’s filo pastry with delicious filling, most commonly meat. You can often find variations with cheese, spinach, or potato, and elsewhere these count as burek too. Not in Bosnia, however: here only meat filling counts as the real deal, the rest are known as “pita”.
Following closely behind on the list of most popular Bosnian foods is ćevapi, sometimes (when smaller) known as ćevapčići. Loved all throughout the Balkans, ćevapi are closely linked to the Turkish dish kofte kebab, unsurprisingly due to the region’s Ottoman occupation. Ćevapi are very simple: they are just small grilled minced meat sausages, usually served in five to ten pieces. They often come within a flatbread, and other popular accompaniments include chopped onions, sour cream, and the Balkan favourites Kaymak (a thick cream) and Ayvar (a sauace made from red pepper). Though ćevapi are common all across South-Eastern Europe, the version from Sarajevo is regarded as particularly good.
Though Burek and ćevapi are right at the top of the pile when it comes to what to eat in Bosnia, there’s plenty more. Firstly, there is pljeskavica, the burger equivalent of ćevapi. Found regularly throughout the Balkans, it’s Serbian in origin. Many of Bosnia’s other delicious treats are Ottoman influenced, particularly desserts, like baklava and tulumba. Savoury favourites include sarma and begova čorba.
If there’s one recommendation of what to eat and drink in Bosnia, it has to be the local coffee. All throughout the Balkans they will offer “Bosnian coffee”, even though it’s basically the same as the Turkish variety. A great deal of tradition and ceremony goes into preparation, and Sarajevo has the best cafes in the region. For centuries locals have enjoyed morning coffees in Baščaršija, the old Turkish quarter. You’ll notice that most times you have Bosnian coffee it will be served in exactly the same style, on a intricately designed plate, with a džezva full of coffee, a small cup, and little sweets known as rahat lokum (which is essentially Turkish delight).
Bosnian coffee is the best way to start the day in Sarajevo, and there’s no dispute concerning the best way either: rakija. (To be fair, many people in the Balkans swear by rakija first thing in the morning too…). The fruit brandy is strong, usually around 40%, and always tastes better homemade (in which case it will be even stronger); every local will have a secret stash of rakija made in their local village. There are many varieties, the most famous being made from plum, a version known as šljivovica. Other popular flavours are grape, peaches, quince, and many more.