Sarajevo: the Olympic City of Cevap
For Americans, Sarajevo is the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics. For people of the Balkans, Sarajevo is the site of eating Olympic-grade cevap. Cevap is a Balkan staple: ground meat formed into links and grilled, served on pita-like bread with onions, cheese and other toppings.
In Serbia, cevap is basically fast food. It’s best consumed late at night, preferably after a few drinks. There are stands all over the city, but when we asked where the best cevap could be found, Beogradjani told us that we had to go to Bosnia.
No one could explain why was Bosnian cevap was the best, so we decided to go to Sarajevo and investigate this phenomenon with our friend Prvi, the first person to visit us from the states.
We had our first Bosnian cevap at Zeljo in Sarajevo. Once we bit into our pitas, we understood what the fuss was about. Everything is better about Bosnian cevap. The bread is oiled and grilled, the kajmak (cheese) is creamier, and the meat tastier. Unlike Belgrade cevap, there’s no pork in the mixture (thanks be to Allah/the large Muslim population in Sarajevo), and the beef used in Bosnia is leaner. My cevap was gone before I knew it.
Once we knew the glory of Bosnian cevap, we couldn’t stop. The next day we stopped in the town of Banja Luka, known for a distinctive version of the dish. We got a recommendation to try Moya Cevadznica from a hotel concierge and wandered through the pedestrian avenue and several alleys to find it.
Banja Luka cevap links are joined together, so they’re harder to eat in the local style. (The bread is torn and used to pick up the links and toppings, sort of like Ethiopian food.) The cevap also came with a side of hot peppers, a pleasant surprise considering the mild flavors of the Balkans. I used a fork to break up the links and chowed down. While the bread was thicker and possibly better, the meat was not quite as flavorful as what we found at Zeljo. Still, we had no problems finishing our meal and were happy to have a little spice as a topping.
With our bellies full, and our arteries working overtime, Muz declared that he wasn’t going to have another cevap for a long time. How long? “Probably a whole week.”