One of the most popular foods in the Balkans, cevapi can be found in literally every country in Central-East Europe. They are usually translated as “kebabs” in the English language, although the word is quite misleading. Kebabs are small slices of beef meat, most commonly roasted on a pole which circles in front of the heater. However, cevapi are pieces of minced meat, usually grilled and served with kaymak, a type of dairy product similar to clotted cream.
It is regarded that the food was brought to the Balkans during Ottoman invasions, and quickly evolved to suit local tastes. Turkish cooks used only beef, but today’s cevapi come with other varieties, such as pork and even lamb. The meal is often served with bread called somun, which can also be grilled during preparation. Most common side-dish is just a portion of sliced onions, along with a spoon of ajvar spread or the aforementioned kaymak. Some grillers circle the food with a slice of bacon, adding to the already rich taste.
The name ‘cevapi’ actually comes from Persian word for sausage, although the two meals visually have little in common. The word is also of plural form, as nobody can eat only one ‘cevap’ and be well-fed.
Although being very common in Croatia and its neighborhood, cevapi didn’t manage to become globally popular as some of its oriental cousins, such as donner-kebabs or falafels. One of possible reasons is the fact that they are best eaten while being seated, thus limiting themselves from becoming street-food, which can be consumed literally while walking. Another thing is onion, which is the best side dish of cevapi worldwide. It leaves a bad breath after consummation, deterring business people from enjoying cevapi between their meetings.
However, once you are on vacation, or just enjoying your care-free days in Croatia, ordering a portion of cevapi is a sure trip to delicious taste experiences. There are many places in which you can order them, from regular cevabdzinica diners to fine, classy restaurants.