Centuries of Ottoman rule have left Turkish fingerprints on the nation’s cuisine. You’ll find čevapčići joints everywhere, selling grilled meat rissoles that are usually served up with somun (spongy bread) and chopped onion. Similarly hard to avoid are stands selling burek, greasy pastries filled with meat, spinach, cheese and sometimes pumpkin or potato; Sarajevo is often rated as the best burek city in the Balkans. Soups (čorba) and vegetables pop up all over the place on the country’s menus, though more often than not the latter are stuffed with mincemeat; vegetarians will often have to satisfy themselves with salads, or certain selections from the ubiquitous pizzerias. Sweeties also have a Turkish ring to them, with syrupy baklava pastries available everywhere; added to this is an artery-clogging range of creamy desserts, most notable of which is tufahije, a marinaded apple topped with walnut and cream.
The consumption of coffee (kafa) has been elevated to something approaching an art form (see Bosnian coffee). For alcohol, there are a few good domestic beers (pivo), and Herzegovina produces a lot of wine – try Blatina, a local variety of red. There’s also rakia, a potent spirit as popular by night as coffee is by day. Locals are also fond of telling guests that Bosnian tap water is safe to drink – evidently a major source of pride.
Don’t dare use the dreaded T-word – although Bosnian coffee is served Turkish-style, with hot water poured over unfiltered grounds, locals insist that their variety is unique. It’s markedly weaker than Turkish coffee, mainly because of its function as a social lubricant – it’s consumed fervidly throughout the day, with different coffee sittings ascribed different terms: razgalica in the morning, razgovoruša a little later on, and sikteruša following a meal. Coffee is served on a metal tray from a džezva, a cute metal pot, and poured into little tumblers (fildžan). Also on the tray will be a šečerluk, containing a few cubes of sugar – it’s traditional to dip the corner of a sugar cube into your coffee for a flash, nibble it, then let the coffee wash it down. And, most importantly, do as the locals do and take your time.