Food on Trans Dinarica: strong, meaty, but also fresh and local (tips for hungry cyclists)
A very important component of traveling (anywhere in the world) is tasting local specialties. This is especially true for the Balkans, where Eastern, Central European, and Mediterranean cuisine are mixed. It depends on where you are on this colorful peninsula.
On the mainland, there is a lot of meat and freshwater fish, with various stews on the menu, while closer to the coast of the Adriatic Sea, of course, there will be more seafood next to the meat. The good thing about the food offering is that it’s very authentic – the locals just don’t accept Western fast food (because they have their own, although, of course, you’ll find a ‘happy clown’ in the bigger cities). Downside… Well, there isn’t a downside really, except … for vegans. Honestly: vegetarians will be fine, although the lost calories will have to be replaced mainly with cheese, spinach, or potato ‘burek’ (pie), while vegans, will have to be creative. Well, you can always order a ‘shopska salad’ without grated cheese, a ‘lepinja’ bread (which it shouldn’t be heated up on a plate next to the roast meat) and fresh vegetables and fruit. Don’t even try, they probably don’t know tofu and seitan. Although we were also positively surprised in Sarajevo, more precisely in the Bosnian restaurant Žara iz Duvara, where the owner tries to get the guests to try something other than cevapcici and burek.
Another good thing is that the ingredients for the food are often fresh, even so fresh that you may see from the terrace of the restaurant how the chef went to the tank to catch fresh trout, or that the owner of a family stay will gather most of the ingredients for dinner right in her garden.
When we explore the terrain, we usually have a hearty breakfast (it’s usually classic eggs, salami, cheese, bread, and some other fries, maybe peppers and tomatoes), then we spend the day with some yogurt, burek, preferably baked under the bell, and fresh fruit. For dinner we treat ourselves to something stronger; grilled meat, trout, and various soups are excellent, for example ‘pasulj’ (bean soup) or ‘begova corba’ (chicken soup).
- Hint no. 1: Take time and don’t complicate too much.
- Hint no. 2: Don’t let them get you full to their standards. If there are four at the table, there will probably be enough soup for a starter and then a mixed meat plate for two. You can still make up for it with dessert.
- Hint no. 3: when the house offers it, eat something other than grilled meat, otherwise you may return from the Balkans, even after a cycling tour, with a few kilos more.
Dobar tek! (Bon Appetit)