The 411: Eating in Bosnia for Students

by Katie Wells

For food lovers worldwide, Bosnia-Herzegovina is the place to be. Not only are there a variety of restaurants hosting international foods (such as Japanese and American), but students will also enjoy easy access to food almost anywhere, with ćevapi restaurants on every corner and pekaras (bakeries) lining the streets. These local staples provide both food on the go and a place to sit and relax between classes.

Chicken and potatoes cooked on an outside grill.
Chicken and potatoes cooked on an outside grill. Photo by Katie Wells

Hungry students will always be satisfied in Bosnia, where a wide selection of influences infuse the local cuisine, from Mediterranean-esque spices to dashes of the nation’s Turkish roots. Eating in Bosnia is an experience, so every should student should prepare themselves for mealtimes with an empty stomach, and a sweet tooth on deck.

Staple Meals

Bosnia's main foods are bread, meat, and cheese. Therefore, every meal can and will consist of the latter foods. Breakfast is usually bread rolls with chicken paste or a thick slice of bread with meat and cheese. A range of potential options may land upon your table at lunch time, from a homemade pizza to chicken and fries to mere slices of bread topped with meat and cheese. Supper is the heaviest of all meals in Bosnia, served in the form of fresh vegetables (frequently from the cook’s own garden), copious amounts of meats, often either dried or cooked, fresh loaves of bread from a local bakery, and potatoes. Bosnian salads are simple, typically just shredded cabbage with sliced tomatoes, and are the lightest part of any meal if they are present at all.

Most Popular Dishes

Ćevapi (pronounced cheh-vap-ee), also known as ćevapčići (cheh-vap-chee-chee), is a traditional Eastern European dish of grilled meat with diced onions, stuffed in a pita-like bread called somun (so-moon), and rolled in a sausage fashion. It is also often served with kajmak (k-eye-mack), which is similar in taste to sour cream. Newcomers tend to be filled to the brim by half plate servings of cevapi, which include only five pieces, but truly adjusted students can easily manage a full platter of ten (though some locals can eat 20!). Cevapi can be eaten by hand or with a fork, either way is seen as perfectly normal among Bosnians. Restaurants serving cevapi can be found in nearly every part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and especially in Old Town Sarajevo where there is a different cevapi joint on every corner.

Burek is a baked dish made of phyllo dough, which is stuffed with meat, cheese (sirnica -pronounced seer-nee-tsa), spinach (zeljanica - zel-yuh-nee-tsa), or potatoes (krompiruša - kromp-eer-oosh-uh). Burek is also known as pita, which means pie locally. To make burek, phyllo dough is rolled into a large strand and then twisted into a large round pan to make a spiral shape. Then the dough is baked, cut into large portions, and served fresh and warm. Burek is nearly as popular as ćevapi, made apparent by the number of restaurants that offer the dish. However, there's nothing quite like a local bosanka (Bosnian woman) version of burek, made fresh in her very own kitchen, instead of one made at a restaurant.

The Sweetest Desserts

In Bosnia, desserts are equally as important as main dishes and three meals a day, or more. The most famous Bosnian dessert is baklava, a rich, sweet pastry made of sugar syrup and walnuts packed between layers of phyllo pastry. Baklava varies from region to region, though it is regularly very sweet, so be sure to try it throughout the country. Another popular dessert is tufahija (too-fuh-he-yeh), a baked apple soaked in syrup, stuffed with roasted walnuts, and finished off with a dollop of whipped cream. It is basically a healthy snack turned dessert with sugar and cream. Bosnia is home to dozens of different of specialty cakes and ice-creams, every student should try pairing them with a Bosnian coffee after hearty meals.

Mealtime Customs

Mealtime is a treasured time in Bosnian homes as it is often the only time of the day when the entire family is together. Meals are never to be missed as food is a very important part of Bosnian culture. Eating in Bosnia is bliss for those who are considered "big eaters," because Bosnians will always urge visitors and family members alike to eat more and more, and no one is ever criticized for taking seconds or even thirds. Students will never go hungry in Bosnia!