Best Bosnian Foods that Are Not Burek or Ćevapi!
Many things can be said about the Balkans, but one thing is for sure, Balkan food is amazing! It’s so rich and versatile, it can easily parallel cuisines of France and Italy.
Greatly influenced by the Balkan geography and history, this cuisine is a mixture of a healthier Mediterranean fare (such as fish, seafood and pasta), typical Slavic dishes (like hearty soups and stews, pickled vegetables and rich tortes), and the Ottoman cuisine (think stuffed flaky pies, mouthwatering baklava-like desserts and stuffed apples).
If you’re a close follower of Chef’s Pencil, you’ve had a solid overview of Balkan food via the Serbian dishes article. As food from Bosnia and Herzegovina is very similar to Serbian food, and some of the dishes that would go on this list are already mentioned (sarma, ajvar, etc), I wanted to introduce you to delicacies you would’ve otherwised missed.
They’ll delight your tastebuds, I promise!
1. Hadžijski Ćevap aka the Boss Sauce
While ‘ćevap’ is associated with grilled sausages, when you see an adjective before ‘ćevap’ it generally means you’re getting a sauce of some kind. Hadžijski ćevap (or as I’ve renamed it in English, the boss sauce) is made by simmering veal and veggies, and adding a little bit of heavy cream. When ingredients are tender, the sauce is divided into portions, wrapped in foil and transferred to a water bath.
By the way, ‘hadžija’ is someone who has done the hajj (Muslim pilgramage). Back in the day this trip was expensive and only the rich could go. Therefore ‘hadžija’ became slang for someone who’s doing pretty well in life and thus are ‘the boss.’
In the West baklava is synonymous with Middle Eastern flaky, honey, multiple-nut delicacy. Bosnian baklava is a bit different, and that’s why I call it ‘the midcentury modern’ of baklavas. Its main ingredients are the walnut (and only the walnut!), butter, phyllo, simple syrup, and sometimes a filling of egg and flour crumbs (tirit). It’s a simple and elegant dessert whose every component will satiate you.
You’ll recognize a good Bosnian baklava by the fact that (like a good meal) one or two pieces will be enough to completely satsify you.
3. Bamija, aka Okra Sauce
Bamija (baminja, bamia) is another divine sauce made with specific kind of okra and veal. Taste- wise this rich sauce falls somewhere between regular okra soup and gumbo. In Bosnia, okra is picked early (when just under 2 inches), lined on a thin rope, and then dried in a shaded, drafty place. You’ll spot it at the farmer’s market in a batch of long bead-y threads.
As okra expands when prepared, one of these threads is enough to make the entire dish. Combined with tender, simmered veal, bamija sauce is perfect over rice or mashed potatoes. Or simply grab a slice of bread and go to town!
4. Punjene Paprike aka Stuffed Peppers
There doesn’t exist just one characteristic way to prepare punjene paprike in Bosnia. They can be cooked, baked, a combination of both, or even pickled. Meat filling is usually the same everywhere and it consists of ground beef, rice and a few simple spices. (Depending on religion pork may be used also.) This is one of those dishes that delights vegetarians because there are many non-meat stuffed pepper recipes as well.
For example, there are peppers stuffed with (grated or diced) potatoes, as well as the sour cream and cheese stuffed peppers.
5. Dolma(s) aka Stuffed Veggies
In the same vein stuffed vegetables or dolmas are, in addition to burek, maybe the most recognizable Bosnian dish. ‘Dolma’ in actuality means ‘stuffing,’ but over time the meaning has changed to an actual stuffed vegetable. There are several types, like sogan dolma (stuffed onion), japrak dolma (stuffed vine leaf), šarena dolma (mixed stuffed veggies), etc.
This combo of colorful vegetables stuffed with ground beef, rice and spices, then baked (or cooked) in a tomato based sauce, are pure pleasure for both eyes and palate.
6. Kvrguša aka The Chicken Pie
This dish is so unpretentious everyone who eats it asks themselves why they didn’t think of making it before. Kvrguša pie consists of chicken pieces (any will work, but legs and thighs are the best) baked on top of pancake like batter, then topped with heavy cream.
The result is perfectly crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside chicken, on a bed of golden, creamy, tender pie.
As you lift each chicken piece you are met with a small pool of flavorful chicken juices in the pancake. (For an additional kick of flavor top kvrguša with sour cream, yogurt and garlic.) There is something about this, ultimately peasant meal, that’ll make you feel like a king when you eat it. 7.
7. Klepe aka Bosnian Ravioli
Every country has its ravioli. Bosnia’s ravioli are called klepe. Although klepe can be cheese, vegetable or meat based, when you order klepe in a restaurant (unless you specifically ask for a vegetarian option), you’ll get the beef ones.
Like ravioli, these dumplings are made by flour dough that’s thinned out, shaped, cut and stuffed. At this point klepe are either frozen for later, or thrown in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes.
Final step includes lining them in glass cookware, smearing them with a decadent topping (heavy cream, garlic, paprika and butter), and baking them for a few minutes. As you can guess, this rich meal requires a nap afterwards.
8. Knedle aka Potato Plum Dumplings
What would a cuisine be like if it didn’t boast a version of sweet dumplings too? Although well worth it, these potato plum dumplings are consuming to make.
Therefore, if someone offers you this delicacy, don’t hesitate to eat as many as you can and ask for more to take home. (If you’re the one making them, you’re best off making a few batches and freezing some for later.)
Similarly to gnocchi, potatoes for knedle are boiled, cooled and mixed with flour.
They are then stuffed with small, completely ripe, sweet plums, then boiled again. The last step is dipping them in a mix of sugar and bread crumbs before a quick and final fry.
9. Sutlijaš aka Rice Pudding
Although an acquired taste, those who do like sutlijaš are crazy about it. This simple, milk based rice pudding is easily recognized by the generous use of raisins.
It’s always made with small, round rice, and is usually topped with chocolate or cinnamon. Not only is this one extraordinary and refreshing dessert, it’s also regionally used for the upset stomach (by those who tolerate lactose, of course).
10. Tufahije aka Stuffed Poached Apples
While baklava can be decadent for some, and sutlijaš not decadent enough for others, tufahije (or stuffed, poached apples), quickly become everyone’s favorite Bosnian dessert. Tougher apples (like granny smiths) are first peeled, and then boiled in simple syrup.
After they’re finished cooking, tufahije are stuffed with a combination of ground walnuts, milk and sugar. Stuffed tufahije are kept in the remaining simple syrup and decorated with a splash of whipped cream before serving.
These will take your breath away!
11. Kafa/ kava/ kahva aka Bosnian Coffee
The most recognizable Bosnian delicacy is surely its unforgettable coffee. Depending on the region, you’ll find it under the name of kafa, kava or kahva (sometimes with the ‘bosanska’ in front of it, to designate ‘Bosnian’ coffee).
You can call it anything except Turkish, because similarities end in the looks. Although rich, finely ground coffee is used for both, where Turkish coffee is cooked all the way through, Bosnian coffee is added to the water only after the water boils.
It is only finished after the foam, also known as ‘kajmak,’ forms on top once or twice. It is the foam that is first poured into each cup so that it rises to the top after the remaining coffee is poured in. Bosnian coffee is to be devoured slowly, with a sugar cube or two, plus a rahat lokum, (a local type of Turkish delight).
If you’re into Balkan food, check out our stories on the best foods in the region: