Thursday, 11 June 2015

Kosovan Kuisine...

So, after living in Vietnam, the land of rice, noodles, leafy greens, fish sauce and assorted mystery meats, my general diet has changed rapidly, now that I'm living in the Kosovo, the land of bread, cheese, pickled peppers and... more assorted mystery meats!

Like in Vietnam, the cost of food is very cheap - a filling snack costs less than €1, and a basic meal shouldn't cost much more than €3-4. If you feel like splashing out for a nice steak dinner, you'd be looking at around €10.

So, what kind of food can I expect in Kosovo?

Meat

Whilst it's certainly possible to get by in Kosovo as a vegetarian, meat is very much a part of the culture. Walking around Pristina, you see many qebaptores that serve grilled qebapa - meat patties - with bread and salad. You can also opt for the more US-friendly hamburger, or there's often marinated steak or chicken if you prefer your meat less processed (but slightly more expensive).

On the other hand, if you're out with a group of people, you might order a mezze plate of cold meats - usually consisting of an array of sliced smoked, dried and cured meats, with some local white cheese for variety. A great salty snack to go with drinks on a sunny afternoon.

Having been occupied by the Ottoman Empire for a number of centuries, the Turkish influence is also certainly present, with its share of Turkish restaurants around town, where you can get meat and cheese-filled pides, or sliced doner meat in a sandwich or on a plate with salad.

Salads

Speaking of which, salads are great here! I'm not talking about some leafy tossed salad. Most salads will consist primarily of fresh cucumber and tomato as a base, with a variety of other ingredients depending on your taste. Greek salads with feta and olives are a popular choice (although, if you're south of the border, make sure you ask for a Macedonian salad!) There are also meaty options with chicken or beef. However, my favourite is the shop salad, which is the salad as above, but with sliced peppers, onion, and grated white sirene cheese on top. It's the best! Who says you can't make friends with salad?

Shope salad

Baked wonders

Bread is plentiful here. At most bakeries you can get all kinds of bread, which is pretty much the same as bread anywhere else in the world. But the magic happens when you order a byrek. There are generally three kinds - the meaty kind that has mince and onions in it, the cheesy kind with the salty white cheese goodness, and the spinach kind that has cheese and spinach. It's cheap - usually less than €1 and tasty. Locals often cut it up and dip it in yoghurt. Another similar traditional dish is flija, which can be best described as a pile of savoury crepes which have been glazed with layers of salty dairy goodness, and left to set, so that you cut it up like a pie. I'm not describing it very well, so here's a picture:

Flija, you fools!
Pizza is also very common here. it's cheap and tasty, and they take thin crusts to the extreme, compared with pizza that I've had back home. Then again, I've yet to have real pizza in italy, so I shall reserve all judgement until then!

All of the above meals are often served with a pickled sides - usually olives and yellow peppers. Be warned though - the peppers may be yellow, but they pack quite a punch in the spice department.

Dessert

So, you've eaten dinner and, what? You're still hungry? Fortunately, at the moment it's berry season. Around every corner there's somebody with a cart full of punnets of fresh strawberries - which you can purchase for €1. Similarly, turkish cake shops will sell you some delicious baklava. However, if you're feeling decadent, a local speciality is treleqe. Now, this is very much a sometimes food, and here's why: First, they bake a cake. Then they make a mixture of milk and sweetened cream and, once the cake is cooled, the sweet milky-cream is poured over the top of the cake until it is soaked right through. Finally, spread a caramel on top.

Trileqe
Enjoy! Then go to the gym the next day for penance.