NYC’s Balkan eating places share culture

Most cultures have a few types of crispy, melty combination of bread and cheese: for Italy, it’s pizza; for the United Kingdom, it’s the toastie; for Brazil, it’s pao de queijo. And for the lesser-known “Balkans,” it’s the burek. Reminiscent of Greek spanakopita, burek is a flaky, layered phyllo dough pie full of cheese, pork, spinach, potato, or apple. And of the path, if there’s one location outdoors of the location, you may strive for burek, in addition to a slew of different Balkan dishes, it’s New York City.

But first, a bit of background. The “Balkans” constitutes the maximum jap of Europe’s three southern peninsulas. This includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Wars and political unrest over territories at some stage in the remaining century caused many refugees to relocate worldwide, particularly within the 1990s throughout the civil conflict. Some got here to the USA and New York, g in a small network eager to share their tradition and background — and what better way than through meals?

Rooted in the circle of relatives’ tradition

With places in Astoria, Brooklyn, and a manufacturing facility in New Jersey, Jordan Burek began more than twenty years ago via Esma and Hamo Medunjanin, refugees from Bosnia. It became a real mom-and-pop shop, consistent with daughter Selma Medunjanin-Ismajli, who took over the commercial enterprise with her siblings while their parents retired.

Back inside the overdue Nineteen Nineties, her mom changed into making burek pies at the domestic of their one-bedroom condo and selling them to a local Balkan eating place, and her father saw a possibility. They rented a construction on thirty-fourth St. And 31st Ave. In Astoria, the eating place continues to be located — and her mom worked in the kitchen even as her father labored on the ground.

“At this time, many Bosnian refugees had settled in Astoria, and now not a lot became available to them,” Medunjanin-Ismajli defined. We were one of the first Balkan eating places to start up in the place. It became a straightforward mom-and-pop restaurant with homemade food and friendly, familiar service. To this day, we attempt to perform and keep the same standards and career.”

Since then, they’ve been capable of opening a sister restaurant in Brooklyn and a manufacturing unit in New Jersey, which permits them to provide burek in large quantities (you may even order boxes of it to cook dinner at home). Vladimir Ocokoljic, an owner of Kafana NYC in the East Village, came to the United States from Belgrade, Serbia, 29 years ago. Kafana serves authentic Serbian “consolation meals,” as he calls it.

“I concept, in New York every cuisine is represented here, so why now not mine?” he said about beginning the eating place eleven years ago. “I’ve just been passionate and lucky enough that it has worked.” At Çka Ka Qëllu in the Bronx, which opened a bit over a year ago, the cultures of Albania and Kosovo are pondered inside the food and decor. Owner Ramiz Kukaj became inspired by Balkan architecture from the 1400s and 1500s and sourced historical items at once for his domestic use.

A 20-year-old carpet lies on the ground from wartime — burn marks from a fire are visible. Food is served on timber products that he accrued over ten years, and other artifacts like equipment line shelves at the walls. He wanted to awaken the vicinity’s medieval history and keep “subculture and history alive” for his son, who asked about Albania while he was younger. His friends might take him to restaurants representing their cultures, but he didn’t have an Albanian choice. So, his father decided to create one for him.

“When you walk in here, you see my spirit. You see our way of life,” he said.

The cuisine itself

“Balkan food may be very much part of Mediterranean delicacies or even a version of Turkish delicacies,” Selma said. “It’s a weight loss plan that is generally composed of diverse grilled meat dishes consisting of beef kebabs (cevapi), ethnic dishes including filled cabbage (sarma), and the staple dish, the phyllo dough pie (burek).”

With meals rooted in culture, eating place menus come from family recipes. Most recipes are from Mother Esma in Jordan, which she discovered from her mother, grandmother, and different relatives. Medunjanin-Ismajli’s grandfather (Esma’s father) additionally owned a pastry saved for their domestic use. Hence, some of the conventional pastries like tulumba (a traditional fried dough dipped in a sweet syrup) and shampita (“sweet egg whites whipped to perfection on a skinny yellow cake crust”) are his recipes.


I love cooking and eating food. I always look for new recipes, new foods, and new restaurants. I just love food! My goal is to post interesting and delicious food and share recipes with the world. I have a passion for all types of food; especially Asian cuisine.