For such a small country, Montenegro’s traditional cuisine comes in many delicious flavours. It ranges from garlicky seafood on the coast to hearty mountain fare designed to keep hard-working farmers going. Every region has its specialities. Take a gastronomic journey around Montenegro with these 10 traditional Montenegrin dishes.
Njegusi village is the home of Montenegrin prosciutto. Every day tourists and locals alike take the drive up the Serpentine Road with 25 hairpin turns to get their fix of Njegusi prosciutto in Njegusi village. The climate and altitude combine to create the perfect conditions for making prosciutto here. Whole pig hind legs are packed in salt for three weeks, then they’re hung to dry for three more weeks. The final touch is four months of smoking, during which the fire has to be constantly burning and tended to. The prized result is sliced thinly and served with local cheese or cooked with cabbage.
Former Yugoslav president Tito’s private chef, Milovan Stojanovic, received a world championship gold medal for his dish, Njeguski Steak in 1986. One bite and it’s obvious why this has become a Montenegrin classic. The steak is made of a veal or pork schnitzel filled with Njegusi prosciutto and cheese. The best ones come with a generous dollop of melting kajmak, a local cream cheese.
Milovan’s other version is the Karadjordjeva Schnitzel, also known as ‘maiden’s dream’, where the filled schnitzel is rolled, breaded and fried.
All coastal Montenegrins grow up loving buzara. Shellfish, prawns and shrimps are cooked in either a red or white sauce. The red sauce is made with red wine, onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices. The white sauce is considered an art form and is made with white wine. Montenegrins love nothing more than to cook up a huge pot of buzara on a summer night and invite all their friends over.
Ispod saca is the Balkans’ version of a good Sunday roast. Meat, usually veal, lamb or goat, is slow-roasted with potatoes, carrots, onions, maybe a tomato and a pinch of paprika under a metal dome covered with coals. The finger-licking result is fall-off-the-bone tender meat and succulent vegetables. This is a must-try in Montenegro and it’s the perfect end to a day of rafting in the Tara Canyon.
A coastal specialty, black risotto gets its famous black colour from cuttlefish ink. A really good black risotto also has subtle flavours of white wine, bay, garlic and nutmeg. It’s a must-try while on coastal Montenegro, but watch out, black risotto also turns your teeth black!
Montenegrin lamb in milk is a traditional dish that’s only found in northern Montenegro. The lamb is slowly stewed in milk with potatoes, carrots, fennel, rosemary, garlic, parsley and seasoning. Traditionally, this dish is made in a sac over coals and the meat comes out beautifully tender.
You won’t find western takeaways like McDonald’s in Montenegro. But you will see cevabdzinicas (try saying that three times quickly!) on just about every corner. Cevabdzinicas sell cevapi, small sausages made of pork and beef mince. These delicious morsels of meat are best served with a cold salad of home-grown tomato and cucumber.
Kacamak is a hearty, traditional staple from Montenegro’s mountain regions. It’s made by cooking cornmeal with potatoes and adding kajmak, a type of cream cheese, and serving it with soured milk. This is mountain comfort food at its best!
When in Montenegro, forgo your usual bland toast or cereal. Go to the local bakery and get some burek. Burek is made of filo pastry and filled with cheese, meat, spinach or potato. It comes in spirals, wedges and tubes but the wedges are best. An oily, crunchy layer of pastry gives way to a delicious filling. Add a bottle of plain yogurt and you’ve got the ultimate Balkan breakfast.
A 30-minute drive from the coast brings visitors to one of Montenegro’s hidden gems, Skadar Lake. The enormous lake and wetland is a national park and it’s teeming with wildlife. The local speciality on the lake is carp and is served fried, smoked or marinated in oil.