Balkan Cuisine, By A Slightly Fussy Eater/Drinker

Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Spanish, French, Nepalese, Jamaican. The diversity of nationalities that occupy restaurants on Britain’s high streets is a testament to our nation’s increasingly adventurous tastebuds. Yet Balkan cuisine remains a great unknown.

Despite my newfound love of Masterchef, I am not what anyone could call a foodie. Tomatoes and cucumbers make me feel nauseous, condiments of all description should be outlawed, and I despise 99% of chips. Although both this and my budget restricted how much of the local food I tried, I still tried quite a few of the Balkans’ favourite foods and drinks. Take my evaluations with a pinch of salt, but this is what I thought…

(My main two restaurant recommendations are Zithos in Thessaloniki and Nanina Kuhinja in Sarajevo.)

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Virtually every Balkan country I went to:

Somersby ‘cider’: It’s too damn sweet! This is NOT proper cider. I’m not even convinced there’s ANY alcohol in it, let alone 4.5%. Not having it. However it is more or less the only thing masquerading as cider in the whole area, so… 2.5/5

Serbia:

Raspberry-flavoured beer: I hate beer but managed to sink about 4 pints of this no problem. Much nicer than the normal stuff, but obviously not as good as cider. 3/5

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Bosnia:

Burek: Like a less flaky (and therefore less messy) sausage roll. It’s decent, but not a world-beater. 3/5

Plum rakija: Maybe they mistranslated ‘paint stripper’ as ‘plum’. Wish I’d spat rather than swallowed. UGH. 0/5

Blueberry rakija: After the plum one I was expecting the worst, but this is actually really nice. 4/5

Klepe: The actual klepe (pasta) itself was nothing special, but THE SAUCE. THE PITTA BREAD. YES. This combined with the recommended ‘special herb tea’ was an absolute knockout. Thank you, Nanina Kuhinja. 5/5

Peppers stuffed with mince: Pretty nice, good sauce again but wasn’t sold on the potatoes. 4/5

Bosnian-style curry: Edible, but that’s about it. 2/5

Cevapi: Like a kebab; very dry, very meaty. Not really much else to it. 2/5

Turkish coffee: If you like coffee, this was probably brilliant. I do not like coffee. 1/5

Karlovačko beer: As noted above, I hate beer, and this ratchet cheapo shit was even worse than other beer I’ve had. 0/5

Braco chocolate: Sound, even if I only bought it because of the creepy pictures of children on the wrappers. 3/5

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Croatia:

Prawn pizza: Surprisingly edible. 3/5

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Macedonia:

Barovo white wine: In my limited experience of wine, it’s the best wine I’ve had. 4/5

Crepes: Chocolate sauce. Chocolate cream. Cream. In abundance. In a crepe. Diabetes on a plate but would eat again regardless.  5/5

Caramel trileche: Caramel, cream, banana, sponge, milk. The parts are good, the taste even better. 5/5

Bosnian pepper sauce: Smoky, peppery, meh. 2/5

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Greece:

(Free) coffee latte: If you like coffee, this was probably brilliant. I do not like coffee. (But it was more drinkable than the jug of sediment I had in Bosnia.) 2/5

Pilaf rice with mince: I daydream about this dish constantly. So simple, but tasted absolutely incredible. 5/5

Pilaf rice with egg/shrimp/peas: Not quite as good, but still very good. 4/5

Retsina: First gulp: UGH. Fifth gulp: Hmm… Tenth gulp: This is ok, actually. All about how you drink it. 3/5

Moussaka: Meant to be the best in Thessaloniki – it was very nice, but not quite good enough to warrant the magical full marks. Admittedly probably downgraded due to drinking too much water and nearly vomiting half an hour later. 4/5

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