Years from now, when we’re reminiscing on our time in Macedonia, it’s possible that it won’t be the ancient ruins, the nature, nor the villages which we remember most fondly. It will be the food. We enjoyed almost every meal we had in Macedonia. These were our favorite dishes.
With a name that translates literally as “village meat,” Selsko Meso is never quite the same at any two restaurants. Meat, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and whatever other vegetables might be lying around are thrown together in a clay pot, doused with white wine and set to simmer for hours. The result is a chunky stew eaten straight out of the pot in which it was cooked.
One of Macedonia’s most traditional dishes, Tavče Gravče is nearly as much fun to say as it is to eat. Sometimes, I’d order it simply to let the syllables bounce off my tongue. This meal of baked beans and onions baked in a clay pot is believed to have originated in Tetovo. You can order Tavče Gravče with meat, but it’s usually eaten without.
It’s a giant beef burger filled with cheese and topped with cheese. That’s it. And that’s plenty.
A blend of roasted red peppers and garlic, ajvar is traditionally made once per year. In the autumn, people buy as many peppers as they can carry, or harvest them from their gardens, and stir them continuously for hours in a huge pan in their yards, each family member taking a shift. Ajvar can be eaten by itself, spread across bread, served alongside meat, or cooked into more complicated dishes.
I always felt both angry and jealous while eating ajvar. I mean, we Americans gobble down buckets of salsa, so why not ajvar? It’s cheap, easy to produce, delicious, and goes with everything… I can’t think of a reason it hasn’t caught on back home. I feel cheated!
There’s a similar condiment called pindjur, which is just as good. It’s made in the same way as ajvar, substituting eggplants for the peppers.
This cold salad combines bite-size chunks of uncooked tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and onions with a light dressing of oil and vinegar. Sounds healthy, right? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that a good Shopska Salad is also topped with heaps of white cheese, enough to totally bury the vegetables. We ordered one almost every time we ate out.
In the village of Galičnik, the waitress at the Hotel Neda recommended the kačamak so forcefully, that it sounded like a command. Cowed into compliance, I ordered it. Soon, she set down a bowl of clumpy, semi-mashed curds of cornmeal, with two big slices of goat cheese and a portion of freshly-made cream. The description isn’t entirely appealing, I’ll admit, but this was delicious. The pasta-like curds go perfectly with the cheese, and the cream was heavenly. So now, I’m commanding you: if you are in Galičnik, go to the Hotel Neda and order the kačamak. Do as you’re told… you’ll thank me, later.
When we asked Macedonians about their favorite food, the most common response was Turli Tava. Well, most people actually answered “pizza,” but Turli Tava was the most popular local dish. The name means “mixed pot,” and it’s similar to Selsko Meso in both preparation and taste. But there are some differences. Veal is used in Turli Tava, and there are a lot more vegetables, including beans, peas, zucchini and okra. A well-prepared portion will be served hot, with deliciously juicy chunks of meat.
Of course, these weren’t the only great meals we had in Macedonia. Just scroll through the pictures which follow, to see a whole lot of others. But I’ll warn you: don’t look at these photos on an empty stomach. From salads and appetizers, to meats, fish and drink, Macedonian cuisine looks as wonderful as it tastes!