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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Serbia

Culinary Influences

Traditional Serbian cooking is all done over the grill or an open fire and the people still love using this technique. Historically, the Serbian diet was heavily reliant on animal byproducts such as meat, fats, dairy, and eggs.

The first strong influences on their food came from opposite directions, the Greeks from the Mediterranean and the Russians from overland. The Greeks' greatest influence is in the way of ingredients, while the Russians introduced a number of dishes that are still popular today, like meat-filled dumplings called pelmeni.

More recently, the Turks, Hungarians, and Austrians have incorporated ingredients to the Serbian cuisine. Particularly noticeable are desserts, which range from Turkish-style baklava to Viennese-style cakes.

Staple Foods

There is no true staple food in Serbia, however their diet is heavily tilted in the favor of grilled meats and you will find a meat in almost every dish.

Regional Variations & Specialties

Cevapcici: Serbia's national dish, it consists of grilled and seasoned meat eaten with raw onions and warm bread
Podvarak: roast meat with Sauerkraut
Sarma: stuffed cabbage rolls

Dining Etiquette

Serbian Food - Paprikas
Paprikas

Serbs are inviting people and enjoy hosting, but you are expected to thank their hospitality by means of a small gift, like wine and the courtesy of removing your shoes before entering their house.

As soon as you get in the door you'll probably be offered small appetizers, including slatko, a popular strawberry preserve which can be served before or after a meal. This will be just the first course and you'll commonly be served multiple courses.

The other side of dining is drinking and in Serbia drinks are commonly served with dinner. Toasts are common (make and keep eye contact while toasting) and you may be served any number of drinks, including rakija or sljivovica, which can be excessively strong, especially if they are homemade. Getting too intoxicated is inappropriate so leave some liquid in your glass to avoid having it refilled.

If you're dining in public, the host is expected to pay for the entire bill. If you're not the host, don't offer to pay though since this can be very rude; instead invite your host to dinner at a later date.

At sit down restaurants with a waiter or waitress, round up or tip about 10% of the bill.

Drinks

Serbian Food - Rakija
Rakija

Due to a past under both Austrian and Turkish rule, Serbia has grown quite fond of coffee, particularly strong dark Turkish coffees. The country is also known for tits mineral waters. If neither of these sound appetizing, Serbia also has juices, tea, coffee, soft drinks, and milk widely available.

While beer, wine, and hard liquors are also common in Serbia, they have two local specialties: sljivovica, which is a distilled plum juice and rakija, which is distilled from grapes.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Serbia, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013