Often when we are meeting some new state, people, culture, we start from the question what their national cuisine is like, and with what pleasant thing that civilization can surprise us. Montenegro is a culture like that, hidden, like a pearl, in the very heart of Europe, ready to surprise you, to surrender to all your senses, and to offer to you on its national table the things which you are seeing for the first time, as well as those that you had the chance to see before, but now in a new arrangement. One thing could never be reprimanded to Montenegrins – they are exquisite hosts. The doors are opened for you here; you will be given the best seat at the table, and offered with the best things that your host has… Montenegrin national cuisine opens its doors for you – taste the tradition…
About the milk and its energetic value everything is known. The quality of milk is a special thing, and Montenegro can commend itself with a high quality of milk. On the mountain pastures of the north of Montenegro and in the fertile valleys of Zeta and Bjelopavlici, cows, sheeps, and goats are getting the most quality graze in this part of the Europe. Far from the polluters and industrial zones, Montenegrin agriculture becomes an example of the fight for healthy food and healthy life. The milk which is boiled (milk is otherwise called “varenika”, variti – boil) is extremely rich with dairy fat and proteins – and the products which with further processing are obtained, such as cream or butterfat, are therefore of first-class quality. Sour milk – refreshing drink – almost the same as yogurt, even though some Montenegrin producers do not agree with this statement, can be found on every table because every household is making it. It can be more sour and thicker than yogurt so usually people recommend the tasting of the special sheep’s sour milk because of the level of the dairy fat.
Curds (Curdled milk)
Potable specialty made of sheep’s milk. It is made in the late summer and early fall months because the graze in those months is richer and the milk curds easier, it thickens. The milk is boiled, stirred and mildly salted during the cooking. The result is a delicious and salty product with more fat. It is mainly eaten with “kacamak” (polenta), another domestic specialty.
The tradition of production of cheese is the oldest when we are talking about the production of food in these areas. The quality and the experience, transferred from generation to generation, have made the cheese favorite Montenegrin meal – unavoidable apart of every meal. Geographical position of Montenegro which is dominated by the plateaus rich with grazes suited the development of cattle breeding, and with that it suited also the dairy industry when we are talking about the production of the food. Today almost in every part of Montenegro you will come across a specific way of production which is too different from the one from the beginning of the last century. Somewhat south – you will come across an exquisite and healthy goat cheese, recommendable for good function of respiratory organs. In the surrounding of Cetinje on Njegusi far known Njeguski sir (CHEESE FROM NJEGUSI), as an exquisite companion of “prsuta” (smoked ham), is being made. After coagulation it is being kept on a cool but airy place up for 3 months until it is tasted for the first time. Dry and rich with dairy fats – it is simply exquisite. The cheese which is mostly produces in the north of Montenegro – “fat cheese” maybe is the most quality cheese, especially if it is made from the mixture of cow’s and goat’s milk. Special taste and aroma Montenegrin cheese gets from the wooden tub, big wooden dish in which the young cheese is being put on which a plate is put and a stone in order for it to become more thick. Today wooden tubs are less and less being produced and they are slowly becoming souvenirs which will just remind us on the way in which our ancestors prepared cheese and “kajmak” (creamy cheese dish). “Zetica” – is a cheese which is obtained from uncooked milk. It is the so-called “youngest” cheese which hasn’t become thick enough to be sold to the buyer. It is a nourishing product which is advised by all doctors to be used for the necessary regular function and regeneration of the liver. “Urda” is somewhat poorer cheese when we are talking about the proteins, but it is an exquisite diet product. The cheese from bellows, with its specific aroma and bigger firmness, as well as with the attractive look of the bellow which is made from a specific skin, most often from lamb skin, which undergoes a specific cleaning process, is something that you have to taste. About the very kinds and techniques of production we could write in details – one thing is certain and always true: if you decide to take the cheese from any Montenegrin household you have chosen a healthy and tasteful way of meeting Montenegro.
Kajmak is the trademark not just of Montenegrin but also of the Middle East cuisines. Extremely tasteful and a rich dairy product which in Montenegro, also called “skorup”, is something that you have to taste in order for you to find out from where comes the extreme physical strength and freshness of Montenegrins. The way in which it is prepared for centuries is the same – after from a boiling milk you take of the “kajmak”(creamy cheese), it is put in the wooden tubs where during the time a creamy mass is being created with a rich and somewhat sour taste, depending on the length of standing. Especially tasteful, but also more expensive and rarer is the one which is kept in bellows (made out of animal skin or giblets). It is eaten as a part of the cold snack, and often you will find it in the fast food restaurants where it is being eaten with a small flat bred.
The north part of Montenegro is extremely rich with edible kinds of mushrooms, so it is no wonder that the international corporations are largely interested in exploiting this natural wealth.
Local citizenship can direct you to some of the locations where you can find mushrooms hidden such as: Boletus mushroom, Chanterelle, and morel mushrooms, of which some of them cost up to 100€ per kilo. If you’re asking yourself why – the tasting of those mushrooms will be the best answer. The taste of morel is, beside all energetic and healing effects, divine.
Rich with herbal kinds which lay all over the country on pastures, Montenegro is a real small paradise when we are talking about apiculture. Recognized in the world when we are talking about the quality of the honey, especially in the mountain part of Montenegro and Durmitor area, our country stands out also with a completely natural technology in production. The final product is obtained by the recipes of the masters which have the tradition of several centuries – some of them even today are selfishly keeping the secret of production of a quality honey.
Honey as a product allows a great span of accompanying products – propolis, exquisite remedy for immunity, and then various cosmetic effects.
On the pastures Montenegro abounds in peppermint and heather – from which the early (spurting in June) and late fall honey (spurting in September), so it is best that you ask for those two kinds. Depending on the wish of the buyer you can get the black locust, woods, floral, meadow and linden honey of which each of them suites a different metabolism.
In Montenegrin tradition honey survives as the food and the medicine, and it is being produced since the production of honey on the Balkan is known. On a traditional Montenegrin table a thing which is obligatory are fritters with honey, and in some rural areas of Montenegro you will have the opportunity to try it with the food with some of the local specialties such as roast etc.
Very popular and nourishing meals are a little bit different from the west European variant of this meal. Several centuries of presence of the Otoman Empire on these areas especially influenced the cuisine of Balkan people. The pie, in its various shapes, has stayed for the longest period of time a local specialty. Montenegrin housewives today are preparing several kinds of pies:
“Zeljanica” – tasty and easy, made of dock and other vegetables
“Sirnica” – rich with the stuff made of cheese and eggs
“Krompirusa”– made of potato and onion
“Uzljevak or Uzljevusa” – is a pie which made by baking of the mixture, without the so-called thin layers for the dough etc.
The process of preparation is the art for itself, especially when we are talking about the pie “sukaca”. The pies made of domestic integral flour are a real delicates – we are recommending to you all the products made of buckwheat – extremely healthy and somewhat rear grain.
The south of Montenegro, especially the area around Skadar Lake, and of course the coast, abounds in quality fish, which the local citizenship prepares excellently in all occasions. Bleak, crucian, salmon, perch, bream and carp, with a drop of wine from Crmnica and a warm conversation will remain in the best gastronomic memory when we are talking about Montenegro.
The bleak is dried (smoked), and the smoked carp is a delicates par excellence. The specialty of the lake cuisine are carp in a casserole, with dry plums, which is being served with other fruits, carp in onion, eel with the rice and grilled eel, Atlantic salmon on grill etc. the fish otherwise in Montenegro is prepared in several ways – on grill with aromatic additives, unavoidable rosemary and olive oil, or fried with potato salade… a fish meals go well with domestic lemon, laurel, garlic and parsley.
Like the majority of Mediterranean cuisines Montenegrin cuisine too offers tuna, octopus salad, mussels, squids and shrimps.
The refreshing parts of every meal in Montenegro are salads. They are extremely popular because Montenegro abounds in vegetables from which the salads are being made:
Tomato salad – it is being prepared from largely cut parts of the tomato with onion, with a topping made of oil and wine vinaigrette. In the south areas they are adding olive oil or even olives.
Green salad – is prepared early, already in spring from the leaves of green salad and the spikes of scallions. Oil, vinaigrette and salt are added also and it is being served with some easier dishes.
Sour cabbage – a real specialty whose preparation is being done in the same way for centuries – in big barrels, pressed with stone in order to get the brine – a sour liquid – excellent for a hangover.
Traditional Montenegrin meals
Kacamak – is a mushy, strong meal which made of wheat, buckwheat, barley, or corn flour and which is being served with cheese and sour milk. Wet “kacamak” is called the one to which the cheese is added, or “kajmak” and which is being stirred for a long time with a special wooden spoon. The taste is even better, and people in the villages prefer it because it gives them the energy which they are using in hard labor. It is found in the offer of every national restaurant. Kacamak made of potato is maybe to most interesting variant of this meal.
Cicvara – with this meal usually white cooked potato and sour milk are being served. Young cow’s cheese or “kajmak” are mixed with flour while the grease is released. It is a meal of high energetic value, of pleasant taste – it literarily melts in your mouth.
“Popara” – with mixing of bread with milk, oil and cheese you get an interesting and cheap meal which is deeply seated in the Montenegrin cuisine.
Cooked potato – is an easy and favorite meal which is accompanied with the cheese, and sour cabbage. It is simply prepared – with a half an hour of cooking of potato.
Thick soups – thick soups in Montenegro are usually prepared with noodles, potato or vegetables. Especially interesting thick soap is the one made of nettle, and almost every thick soup included the cooked fresh meat, so they are extremely nourishing and rich.
“Rastan” – a strong meal made of local vegetable from the family of cabbages, it is cooked with white potato and with a lot of spices.
“Japraci” – is an extremely rich and nourishing meal. In a kilo of “rastan” and half a kilo of young cow’s meet rice, pepper, and even dry meat are added. With cooking the grease is being released, and the meal gets the right flavor. Sarma, stuffed peppers, stew, pilaf etc are still just some meals which beside in Montenegro are characteristic for some other countries on the Balkans. Each of these meals carries a small but significant part of Montenegro in themselves, so we are warmly recommending them during your staying in these areas.
Montenegrin lamb in milk – is a real specialty. From about 2 kg of meat which are being cooked in domestic milk with the addition of spices and potato, you can serve 8 persons, so especially in the north, this meals is being prepared during some solemn occasions.
Sausage – is prepared by drying, most often in Njegusi, with a special technique. It is extremely tasty and strong.
Prsuta (smoked ham) – most famous “prsut”, the one from Njegusi, excels with quality eve compared to the Italian producers. It is the meat of which people take care day and night, while it is dried exclusively on beech logs, for several months. It is served with the domestic, most often grape brandy, and with the dry cheese from Njegusi.
Lamb made under iron pan – When we are talking about the meals made under the iron pan it would be interesting to mention the very process of preparing. The meals made under the iron pan are by far more tasteful than all other meals because they are put under an iron pan the so-called “sac”, which is then covered by ember and ashes. In this way, the aroma is being kept, and the meal is equally fried in a natural way. Lamb, for e.g. is most tasteful if it is prepared in this way. Montenegrin national restaurants prepare it in this way even today.
Popeci from Podgorica – it is interestingly arranged meal: in a steak made from veal’s meat you roll in a piece of cheese or old “kajmak” and a piece of “prsut”. Then you further fry that roll in deep oil, and you get a meal of great juicy and rich interiors and of tasteful and crunchy exterior.
The food from the grill – Montenegrins are known as great lovers of the grill; especially the tasty “cevapi” (kebab) and grilled meat patty which go excellently with onion. Those are two most popular meals with younger population and they are found in the offer of fast food restaurants.
When you think about a traditional Montenegrin desert you usually think of “priganice” (fritter), “Priganice” are easy and quick to prepare, and they are served with honey, jam or cheese. They can be served both as an easier dinner and as a desert.
Baklava – popular Turkish cake which is prepared also in Montenegro with a lot of walnuts and raisins.
Cream cake, whipped cream pie and “tulumba” are frequently served cakes on the Montenegrin table.
Jam – especially tasteful fruit desert in Montenegro. I is made from every fruit kind which exists in our country and it is of great quality. We will stress the ones made of plums and cornelian cherries.
“Slatko” (sweet) – desert a lot like jam, with more sugar and bigger pieces of fruit – especially nice are those made of quince and grape.
Doughnuts – this universal desert has found its way to the Montenegrin table where it is mostly being served with the milled sugar or with a topping made of chocolate.
Because of its geographical position and numerous civilizations which for a longer or shorter period of time stayed in this territory, Montenegro in its culture preserved numerous meals which those civilizations brought with themselves.Today Montenegro beside the numerous traditional meals is a real small mosaic of European cuisines.
The influence of the Italian cuisine you can sense not only on the coast, but also in the way that the pastry is being prepared, especially bread, as well as in the way the fruit, and cheeses are made etc. Sarma, musaka and pilaf are something that the entire east European civilization shares and the deserts have the taste of the continental Europe.
All of this make Montenegro an interesting space on which a gourmand will meet the entire Europe in just three daily meals, at the same time trying the best what Montenegro can offer on its menu – healthy, tasteful, and attractive food.