The ingredients of Serbia

To learn what the Serbs eat, let’s begin with the basics, that is by taking a look at what we like best — the open-air markets. Their central part is usually dominated by stalls piled with vegetables and fruit. Around, often inside pavillons, there are cheese, bread and meat shops. There even may be a fishmonger’s, where fried sardines wrapped in a paper cone can be bought for pennies. The Serbian cuisine could not exists without cheese. Salty, white or yellowish, young or old, this is a definite staple found in bureks or the shopska salad. Yet the king here is kaymak, an expensive, fatty and delicious treat with thick, creamy texture, made by simmering milk and letting the product ferment a bit. Oh, those peppers stewed in melted kaymak… Instead of a banal, boxed paprika spread, we can get the cheaper, gourmet paprika u pavlaci, or peppers in sour cream. When it comes to meat, there’s no way around — gotta splash out and try the spicy kulen and dark, dried prsut. In the pavillons we can also find kore — sheets of filo pastry used for burek, gibanica, pita and other layered Serbian delicacies. A glance at the vegetables stalls says it all: peppers rule here. In salads, Serbian spreads (like ayvar or ljutenica), or baked and peeled, simply marinated with garlic… After surviving the poor choice and plastic-like quality of vegetables along our way, in Serbia we rejoice while devouring a plate after plate of shopska salad. It’s filled with meaty tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and sweet paprika. There are juicy apples, too, and sweet, little grapes, to gorge ourselves on. For us, markets are places of best atmosphere, where interesting personas abound, there’s buzzing of chit-chat and gossip, and tasty morsels to be tried. Somewhere, there may even be lurking a shot of super-strenght rakija to be had, maybe even in the morning…

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