Better than burgers

1968

By Marija Pajković

BELGRADE, The best advice a Belgrader could give you about eating a hamburger is don’t – and find a pljeskavica instead.

Not to be confused with a traditional burger, pljeskavica is entirely its own. Just imagine: the patty is big, juicy, thick, and smells of backyard barbeque. The lepinja (thick pita bread) is fresh from the oven, golden and crispy on the outside and soft and white on the inside. The salty kajmak is melting over the meat, but you have nothing to worry about because you know the lepinja will soak it up. It all mixes together with the assortment of greens in a combination that will leave you wanting more.

You can have it with anything: fresh veggies (mainly chopped onions), or turšija (pickled veggies), urnebes salad (made of cheese, paprika and peppers), or most traditionally, just with kajmak. Kajmak makes any sandwich a special treat: it is similar to clotted cream, but even creamier and richer in flavor.

Belgrader Tamara Sekulović said she still remembers the joy of biting into “a steaming hot pljeskavica from granny Ruža’s shop” as a kid. The shop from her childhood is no longer there, but other small street vendors offer the same traditional Serbian taste.

It is such a staple of Serbian cuisine that it can substitute any meal of the day, and its popularity is evident by the number of fast food stands and kiosks. “Every place has a slightly different taste. The recipe is usually passed on. That’s what people value most, I think. The tradition and careful preparation”, said Nenad Jovičić, a local shopkeeper.