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Montenegro food is relatively unknown, yet wholesome and delicious. We’re going to take an in-depth look at 15 of the country’s traditional foods and dishes.
If you’re visiting this beautiful place soon, be sure to try these Montenegro dishes at cafes and restaurants across the country.
Njeguški pršut (prosciutto) is a delicacy that originated from Njeguško polje, a field at 800 meters above sea level near Lovćen mountain in Montenegro.
Many local delicacies such as cheese and sausages are made in that part of the country, but none are as famous as the prosciutto. The secrets of making this delicacy are passed down through the generations of locals and the process of making the prosciutto takes about a year.
The locals say that the unique wind rose of the area is responsible for the meat’s acclaimed taste and there are exact procedures in place on what to do with the meat depending on the conditions outside, i.e. the wind, the humidity, etc.
Once the meat is ready, the first tasting by the makers is usually accompanied by rakija. It is meant to be cut thin enough so that you are able to see the Lovćen mountain through it and the longer you chew it, the tastier it becomes.
Homemade cheese is made in towns and villages across the Balkans, and Montenegro is no exception to that.
Some of the cheeses made in the region are quite famous in Europe and are considered a must-try delicacy if you ever get the opportunity.
The most famous cheese in Montenegro is the “Kolašinski lisnati sir” i.e. the Kolašin layered cheese. This is a protected national product of Montenegro, but there are different stories about the origin of this cheese.
The makers from Lipovo valley claim that the taste of the cheese can’t be replicated in other parts of the country because the quality of the grass isn’t as high.
The unique feature of this cheese is that it comes in very thin layers and it is said that the skill of the maker is determined by the number of layers of cheese produced.
It is a favorite of both local and foreign tourists that more often than not buy a few kilos to take back with them.
Ćevapi is a dish that is found in all countries of the western Balkans. They are primarily associated with Bosnia & Herzegovina but they can be found in Montenegro as well.
Ćevapi can be best described as small skinless minced meat sausages that are prepared on a grill.
In many places, ćevapi will be served on a special type of bread and they are usually enjoyed with a side of minced onion, kaymak, or both, depending on personal preferences.
The bread is usually put on the grill and smoked for a short amount of time to absorb some of the favor and the juices of the meat which makes it incredibly tasty even to eat on its own.
Ćevapi are usually made from a mix of two or more types of meat, most often beef, lamb, or veal, and some spices. Pork meat is uncommon but it is a component in some recipes.
Every ćevapi maker has its own unique recipe, and no two places will have the same tasting ćevapi even if they follow the exact same recipe because of the differences in the taste of the meat they use.
Burek is originally a Turkish dish that was spread through the Balkans during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century and it was adopted into the local cuisine.
It is a baked pastry with a filling, and the contents of this filling differ between places in the Balkans. For some, the only acceptable filling for burek is meat, while others are of the opinion that other fillings such as cheese or vegetables, or even a sweet filling are also acceptable for burek.
The debate rages mostly over the name as even those who think only meat filling belongs in burek still eat the other variants but just call them differently.
Montenegrins mostly accept the wider definition, so you’ll find burek with all sorts of fillings there, with cheese and meat still being a cut above the rest in terms of popularity.
It is most often eaten for breakfast or as a snack during the day and you’re most likely to find it in bakeries where it is sold either by piece or by weight.
Lamb meat is very popular in the western Balkan countries, especially as a type of meat eaten during celebrations. The meat is very soft and tasty, but it has a strong smell that turns some people away. Cooking the lamb in milk not only reduces the strong smell of the meat but it also makes it even softer than it was, even to the point where it almost melts in your mouth.
Some vegetables are added, most often carrots and potatoes, and some decorative plants added when the dish is being served.
If you’re open to trying a dish that puts a different spin on what is a fairly ordinary type of meat, you’d be doing yourself a favor if you try this Montenegrin dish.
Njeguš stek (steak) is a dish named after the part of Montenegro where the already mentioned prosciutto originated from. However, the reason for this isn’t the place of its origin but rather the ingredients.
The dish itself is the invention of the personal chef of Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito. His chef loved inventing new dishes and giving them local names, one of which was the Njeguš steak.
It is similar to a Serbian dish called stuffed pork loin but makes some important changes in the recipe. In its essence, the dish is a grilled veal loin chop filled with Njeguš cheese and Njeguš prosciutto.
It is an underappreciated dish because of the already existing dishes that are similar but given the fact that the creator is a chef who cooked for some of the most famous individuals in history, it should definitely be on your radar when you find yourself in Montenegro.
Cicvara is a dish the origins of which date back many centuries. The recipe for making it is relatively simple but the process itself takes some time and effort.
It is made out of cornflour, milk, cheese, and kaymak. Cheese is responsible for dictating the aroma of the dish. The older the cheese and the stronger its taste, the better the taste of the finished cicvara will be.
It is a highly-caloric dish but it is far from unhealthy. Back in the old days, cicvara was mostly served for breakfast and it remains so up to this day, but you are free to enjoy it at any time of the day.
Sarma is a dish that is present in many Slavic countries. In the simplest possible terms, it is a mix of minced meat and rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf that is cooked or roasted, depending on the recipe.
In a rare vegetarian variant, the filling consists only of rice without the minced meat.
This basic filling can be enhanced with various spices and other vegetables if one wants, such as minced onions.
There are also variations that use leaves other than cabbage for wrapping.
It is usually eaten for lunch.
Priganice can be described as fried dough balls that could be compared to “salty” doughnuts. Since they are basically fried dough, they are not meant to be eaten on their own. Instead, they are usually accompanied by homemade cheese, kaymak, smoked meat, prosciutto, or vegetables
People have been experimenting with adding different spices and vegetables to the dough before baking it, and some of these experiments have shown to be quite successful, but the traditional version of the dish doesn’t have any of these additions.
The best version of the dish is usually found in mountain villages because of both the experience of the people making them and because of the higher likeliness of being served high-quality side cheeses and meats.
They make for a great breakfast or a snack during the day.
Montenegro is quite a small country and one of its most famous features is its coastline that is a hot tourist destination during the summer.
Just like in any other country with a coastline, seafood is bound to find its place in the local cuisine in the coastal area of the country.
Fish, octopuses, and different types of shellfish are offered in restaurants all over the coastline and fresh seafood can be bought in markets and prepared at home.
Chefs with access to such fresh ingredients can create culinary magic that you’re bound to remember if you find yourself visiting Montenegro’s coastal areas.
Even if you don’t want to go to a restaurant to eat seafood, buying the ingredients in a local market and preparing it yourself can be a memorable experience in its own right.
Deep-fried pancakes are a tasty meal that can be enjoyed with a wide variety of salty fillings. They are served in many places across Montenegro and the most common fillings include mushrooms, cheese, and chicken or ham.
If you’re in the mood for a tasty dish that can be prepared quickly and is quite cheap, deep-fried pancakes may be just the thing for you.
Crepes are not a Montenegrin invention and we don’t aim to portray them as such, even if they are quite popular in Montenegro. The real star of the dish is the homemade jam they are usually served with. This jam can be made at home and many households in Montenegro make their own jam out of all sorts of different fruit.
The jam will have an entirely different dimension of flavor if the fruit was grown locally without the use of growth enhancers.
You’re most likely to find just such jam sold in the countryside where the locals grow their own fruits and vegetables that are more likely to have been grown the old-fashioned way. This will make the jams much juicier and tastier than the mass-produced fruit you’ll find in most markets.
Bread is commonly consumed with nearly every meal in Slavic culture and Montenegro is no exception to that.
More traditional families will sometimes prefer making their own bread to buying it at a store or a bakery.
This bread can be made with different types of flour, and the type of flour used will go a long way towards determining the taste of the bread.
The taste of homemade bread is quite different than the bread you’ll find in a store or a bakery and that not only gives it a certain charm but also adds to the flavor of the meal you’re enjoying with it.
Alva kolač or alva cake is a simple, yet very enjoyable cake that can be served as dessert at virtually any time.
It is easy to prepare and it looks quite appealing, so it is bound to attract attention even if you’ve never seen it before.
There is also a version of this cake without any ingredients of animal origins that is suitable for orthodox “slava” and it is often made for just such an occasion.
It is highly likely to catch your eye, so don’t hesitate to give it a try as its relatively simple look hides a complex and enjoyable flavor.
Heljdija is a traditional layered pie that is filled with a specially prepared mixture of kaymak, cheese, sour cream, and milk. This mixture is supposed to be runny and fatty so that the buckwheat layers absorb most of the juices.
The cheese you use for the filling mixture should provide most of the fat in the filling. The layers are first baked similarly to crepes or pancakes on their own. Once baked, they are layered in a cooking pan with layers of filling added in between.
When you reach the desired height (or run out of buckwheat layers), you put the pie in the oven to be baked once again before it is ready to serve.
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