Top 12 Balkan Foods to Try in Skopje

Top 12 Balkan Foods to Try in Skopje

Are you planning to go to Skopje and want to experience some of the Balkan cuisines? Here are our top 12 recommendations, depending on the month of the year.
Image Courtesy of: Ivan.trpkov

1. January: Sarma

January: Sarma
Image Courtesy of: Vitaan26
Sarma is a Balkan specialty food, usually cooked during holidays; and there are plenty of holidays in January! We, Macedonians, are Orthodox Christians and celebrate Christmas on 7th January. We also have plenty of other religious holidays during this month, when the family gathers together for a meal. Sarma is one of the top 3 dishes served. Many families have cabbage in barrels for the cold winters, and sarma is made of cabbage rolls, with minced meat, paprika, onion, and chopped veggies. Sounds delicious? It is.
Where to find it:
Look for Macedonian traditional restaurants like "Makedonska kukja" (Macedonian house).
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2. February: Ruska Salata

February: Ruska Salata
Image Courtesy of: AlMare
Ruska Salata is one of the most popular meals on the Balkans (although it originates from Russia, called Olivye salad there). It is a mix of chicken or grouse, potatoes, cucumber, lettuce, aspic, capers, olives, and mayonnaise. If you ask anyone here born in the 70s or 80s, Ruska Salata is probably their favorite dish. It reminds them of the family holidays and the days where everyone got together for a meal with relatives.
Where to find it:
Pretty much every restaurant has it, as long as they have fresh ingredients.
Offline reading and travel directions:
You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store or Google Play Store).

3. March: Burek

March: Burek
Image Courtesy of: Nikola Škorić
Spring is on the corner in Mach, and everyone awaits for those tasty veggies and fruits. Meanwhile, burek is on the rescue! Burek is a perfect meal if you are a carbs-deprived person; it has way more carbs than you can handle. Burek is a delicious pastry that you can find on almost every corner, in virtually every city on the Balkans, including Skopje.

If the carbs from burek weren't, enough then "simit" is your answer; it is a sandwich of two slices of bread with pastry inside - that's "double carbs" for you. If you ever wondered why people from the Balkans have so much energy, here's your answer!
Where to find it:
There are over 500 pastry shops in Skopje where you can try burek. One of the best ones is called "Silbo", it's where most people from Skopje go after they're done clubbing, and want to replenish their energy.
Offline reading and travel directions:
You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store or Google Play Store).

4. April: Tavche Gravce

April: Tavche Gravce
Image Courtesy of: Oliver Manev
April is the month for beans. Wait a minute, how are beans a Balkan meal, you may say? They're not, but tavche gravce is! Tavche gravce is made of the best-baked beans you'll ever try. It also has onion, paprika, and spices that will awaken your digestive system and make you fall in love with Macedonian cuisine. Combine it with Rakija and Shopska, and you're in for a treat (we'll cover those meals later).
Where to find it:
Traditional Macedonian restaurants. The best ones for tavche gravce are the ones on the "Debar maalo" street (Skopski merak, Debar Maalo restaurant and so on.)

5. May: Pastermajlija

May: Pastermajlija
Image Courtesy of: Petar Milošević
Pastermajlija is often the new favorite food of tourists who taste it for the first time. It is a perfectly shaped oval fried dough pie, topped with salted, cubed meat. Unlike with other foods, like ruska salata or tavce gravche, people eat pastermajlija without any extra drinks or meals. Yep, it's that good.
Where to find it:
Go to restaurants that serve traditional Macedonian food (not all do) like "Debar Maalo restaurant".

6. June: Shopska (and Rakija)

June: Shopska (and Rakija)
Image Courtesy of: Biso
June is one of the hottest months in Skopje, so people need a way to stay refreshed and cold. Shopska (and rakija) to the rescue! Shopska it's an all-time favorite salad, with big chunks of tomato, peppers, cucumber, and onion, topped with a generous amount of feta cheese. Perfect for the summer. 99% of the time, people eat shopska along with rakija, a pretty strong alcoholic drink. A word of warning though: don't overdo rakija! It's sweet and seductive; one per day will keep you happy, two or more will get you drunk.
Where to find it:
Pretty much every restaurant has it. Some restaurants have "domasna" rakija (made from home) and some have "kupecka" rakija (bought from supermarkets). Ask for the first.

7. July: Pastrmka

July: Pastrmka
Image Courtesy of: JasnaUsa
The Ohrid trout (or ohridska pastmka as locals call it) is a famous type of trout only found in Macedonia. It's usually combined best with white wine (Chardonnay to be exact) available from many local wineries. The Ohrid trout is in..well... Ohrid, but Skopje is the capital, so a lot of it is imported here and consumed by tourists who want to try a unique dish.
Where to find it:
Look for the restaurants by the Vardar riverside. One of them is called "Passion" and it serves a delicious pastrmka!

8. August: Musaka

August: Musaka
Image Courtesy of: АннаМариа
Musaka is a local delicious potato-based dish. Basically, it is a layered dish, made of sliced potatoes. Between each tender and ooey-gooey layer, you'll find eggplants, onion, ground meat and a big assortment of veggies. The top layer is the most important and is finished with an egg-yolk glaze, giving it a wonderful golden colour.
Where to find it:
Musaka can be harder to find. Look for REALLY traditional Macedonian restaurants like the ones on the Debar Maalo street.

9. September: Mekici

September: Mekici
Image Courtesy of: Biso (Biser Todorov)
Mekici are the perfect meal to try exactly nine months after the New Year and the Christmas holidays. In Skopje, there is a tradition that, when a child is born, to give people cheese and mekici. For us, this tried kneaded dough is a popular delicacy that our mothers, sisters, and wives cook it to perfection (and with great pleasure too!)
Where to find it:
A lot (but not all) of pastry shops around Skopje have mekici. "Silbo" is one of them.

10. October: Ajvar

October: Ajvar
Image Courtesy of: Ivan.trpkov
Winter is on its way in October, and people from Skopje are preparing for it by making 20 to 50 jars of ajvar. You probably think ajvar is a healthy meal because the type of food people prepare for the winter is usually full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy nutrients. Well, sorry to disappoint. Ajvar is one of the least healthy, but probably the most delicious thing you'll ever try (don't let looks decieve you!) It's a tradition in Skopje and the entire country to prepare ajvar in the house yard. They use "kjumbe" - a small platform heated on woods to prepare the ajvar, which is made by a lot, and I mean a lot, of paprikas. The best way to eat ajvar is with feta cheese and warm, fresh bread. It's is a magical combination that haunts every Macedonian who lives abroad (Ajvar is one of the most exported traditional Macedonian foods).
Where to find it:
These days you can find Ajvar in almost any super market (Vero, Ramstore are the 2 biggest ones.) Lately, a bunch of brands that promise a "home-made" ajvar appeared. Look for the "home-made" sign when buying authentic ajvar.

11. November: Kacamak

November: Kacamak
Image Courtesy of: Tashkoskim
Kacamak is a rarely known local disk. Some people, especially the young ones, confuse it with polenta, which is a pure insult to the adults who know it takes at least 2 hours to prepare this delicious meal. Kacamak is a thick and creamy mixture of cornmeal that is usually topped with crumbled feta cheese and yogurt. It will keep you warm during the day and will give you energy to walk through the City of Skopje for hours.
Where to find it:
"Kuklica Etno" is a very traditional Macedonian restaurant that serves kacamak. Be prepare to wait around 100 minutes though, this dish takes a long time to prepare.

12. Kebapi

Kebapi
Image Courtesy of: Mila Atkovska
Macedonia was under the Ottoman rule for over 500 years and kebapi was one of the dominant meals back then. Every Balkan country has their own version of kebapi. In Macedonia, for example, you could get a good meal with 10 kebapi. Try that in Bulgaria...and they'll think you're crazy because one kebap there is like 7 Macedonian ones. Kebapi is essentially minced meat shaped like small sausages. You can find the best kebap at the Stara Carshija (the Old Bazaar), where you'll feel like you're going back in time.
Where to find it:
The Old Town has the best kebabs in the whole city of Skopje. You'll probably find it to every shop (and if you don't, look for the shop next to it!)

Author Bio: Darko is the founder of WeLoveSkopje.com, a tourist information website about the city of Skopje, (now North) Macedonia.

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