Column by David Hoffmann: Gastronomic Adventure in Sarajevo

[wzslider lightbox=”true”]This is part of the Momondo experience series, where Momondo challenged me to a gastronomic experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since Sarajevo is the capital and largest city in the country, I thought it would be the perfect place to take on the challenge of seeing what Bosnian food is all about. Sarajevo has a multitude of restaurants, cafés, bakeries, teahouses, and street food vendors to choose from, so I began my gastronomic tour as anyone with a caffeine addiction does – with traditional Bosnian coffee.

Bosnian coffee is strong, but isn’t bitter. It is always served with sugar cubes and a glass of cold water. As much as you may be tempted to, don’t gulp it fast. Bosnian coffee should be enjoyed slowly. Stir the foam at the top and drop in the sugar cube, then stir some more.

We chose Miris Dunja near the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in the Bascarsija to take advantage of the beautiful weather and do some people watching before starting our day.

After sightseeing around the old town (Stari Grad) for a little while longer, we worked up an appetite for the go-to fast food of the country, pies! The most common of these is Börek (pronounced boo-reck), which is basically fried, flaky heaven made of layers of crispy delicate phyllo dough and stuffed with cheese, meat, spinach, potato, or a combination of these. To be a true Bosnian pie, it must be baked in a sac (large metal pan) and hung up in a coal-burning oven.

If you want to be super traditional, eat your pie with a yogurt drink. The yogurt will coat your stomach and quench your thirst better than water, which you’ll appreciate after a heavy meal such as pie. Buregdzinica Sac in Stari Grad is clean, inexpensive and prepares the pies the traditional way. My favorite is the minced meat and potato pie, with cheese Börek coming in strong at second place.

No trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina is complete without trying the unofficial national dish, Ćevapčići (pronounced che-vap-chee-chee). These oblong-shaped grilled minced meatballs are the undisputed kings of Bosnian fast foods. You can find them throughout the Balkans; an influence left behind by the Ottomans.

Every restaurant and household has its own secret recipe for making them, and almost anywhere you walk in Sarajevo between the hours of 1 and 10 PM, you’ll catch the intoxicating smell of Ćevapčići emanating from restaurant exhausts. We got a clear consensus from locals that the best Ćevapčići is at restaurant Ferhatović in the Bascarsija quarter. And they were spot on! The meatballs were amazing, especially with a refreshing chopska salad.

Ćevapčići is commonly served with chopped raw onions and fresh Somun bread, which may look like a plain old pita at first glance, but is actually the work of master bakers and is quite a laborious process. Once you taste it, you’ll see why it is so good – the perfect blend of softness, chewiness, and crustiness that goes perfectly with tender juicy Ćevapčići. We had the pleasure of seeing how Somun bread is made at the Alifakovac family bakery in Sarajevo

Nobody should leave Sarajevo without experiencing its fine dining scene. Ćevapčići and pies are great, but sometimes it’s good to change gears towards a more refined meal. We wanted to sample Bosnian fusion food and Herzegovina wines in a modern, upscale setting, and we ended up at the best restaurant in the Sarajevo, 4 Sobe Gospode Safije (“The 4 Rooms of Mrs. Sofia”).

The restaurant’s name alludes to the forbidden love between a Muslim girl, Safije, and Johan, an Austrian Count, during the transition from Turkish to Austro-Hungarian rule. The restaurant is located in an antique house just a 5-minute taxi ride from the city center.

Gorgeous vintage furnishings and a warm, welcoming ambiance served as the perfect backdrop to the lovely meal we had there. The menu of risottos, salads, seafood, and pastas was a nice change from the fast-paced casual eateries of the Stari Grad. After a satisfying tasting menu of beef carpaccio, mushroom risotto, tuna steak, lamb stew, and chocolate soufflé, we understood how dynamic Bosnian gastronomy truly is.

We hope you one day find yourself in beautiful Sarajevo, and that you take part in the national sport of eating! Bosnia and Herzegovina has no shortage of fresh meats, produce, herbs, and wines. There is literally something baking, frying, roasting, and grilling at every turn, which means you’ll be spoiled for choice. Sarajevo delivers Balkan food at its finest!


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