Bosnia and Herzegovina, Expat Experiences

Food Shopping in Sarajevo

Food Blog

My friend Siobhan, who runs an amazing healthy eating recipe site (Slimming Eats) suggested I do a food post in my blog so I’ve been taking photos whenever we’ve been out and about shopping to prepare for this.  This blog has not been without its hazards – at one point I was nearly thrown out of a supermarket for taking photos.  Turns out they don’t like that so much Confused smile

Fresh Food

Food is interesting here, they are keen on their meat (especially dried, sometimes for years, it seems) and while fresh vegetables are widely and cheaply available according to season, being a vegetarian in BiH could pose some problems.

Now the summer is here, the fresh fruit and veg on offer is amazing and so cheap that I pop down to the fresh produce market most days to buy what I need for that evening’s meal and to keep Emma in cherry tomatoes.

In Cayman virtually all food was imported so by the time you bought a punnet of strawberries or some mushrooms, they’d start to go off by the time you got them home.  In fact, you were guaranteed at least one rotten strawberry in the punnet and at $5 a go, that could be most infuriating.

Having fresh food available on my doorstep, at decent prices, is a real treat and we’ve been cooking from scratch much more.  I say we… I mean me, obviously  Winking smile

Gradska Tržnica – City Market

This is the main market hall for Sarajevo built in 1984.  The indoor area, in this building underneath, houses the wonderful fresh meat and cheese counters.

You can walk through and ask to sample any of the produce without obligation to buy.  The smell is a bit odd, Emma hates it – not bad obviously, as everything is fresh, just a bit odd.

Gradska Tržnica – City Market

Gradska Tržnica – City Market

Fresh meat at the butcher counter

Fresh homemade cheeses

You can buy lots of different soft, homemade cheeses here including goats cheese, sheep cheese (!) and different kinds of kajmak (more on that later)

Fresh Fruit and Veg

The outdoor market holds the stalls selling the fresh fruit and veg.  With it being summer obviously there is much more choice and the colours are vibrant.

Prices are much the same so we tend to stick to the same stalls, an added advantage being the stallholders have started to recognise us and dumb down the price information (i.e. they use their fingers, haha).

Lovely fresh fruit and veg

Pop up stalls outside the market

Pop up stalls outside the market

The open air market at night, waiting for the next day's trading

The market, empty in the evening.

Sellers with no licence, they disappear if the police arrive

Permit Required?

On the streets next to the market you will find ladies selling all kinds of random things from veg from their gardens to sponges, bags, aprons and underwear.

A couple of times recently I’ve seen them be moved on by what appears to be some kind of inspector but this doesn’t make much sense as firstly these people are here all day, every day and secondly, I can’t imagine you need a permit to sell a handful of things by the side of the road.

Though, saying that, BiH does love its bureaucracy (in triplicate).  I’ve had to fill in a form, pay a fee and get my receipt stamped just to say that.

Balkan War Memorial

During the Bosnian war, people still had to do shopping though obviously food and water were more scarce, supplies were cut off and people struggled immensely to feed their families.

To try to buy food, people had no choice but come out into a city under daily bombardment and do their shopping knowing snipers were watching from the surrounding hills waiting for an opportunity to fire.

This was an incredibly dangerous activity on any given day but tragically on 5 February 1994 and 28 August 1995 the marketplace was the scene of direct strikes by mortar shells and civilian casualties were high.

In the first attack 68 people were killed and 144 wounded after a shell landed directly in the centre of the crowded marketplace.

During the second attack, five shells were fired and 37 people died, 90 were wounded.  This second attack led NATO airstrikes and eventually to the Dayton Peace Accords and the end of the war.

On the main road outside the market is a Sarajevo Rose, pictured below.  Where mortar shells landed in the city, the craters were filled in with red resin to mark the spots, so we’ll never forget what happened there.

Sarajevo Rose, marking the spot of a bomb in Sarajevo

There is also a memorial at the back of the market for the people who died there during the war:

A War Memorial on the wall near the City Market

Smaller Markets Are Available

There are other markets across the city and many of the smaller, corner shops sell fresh produce too.

These next shops are at the bottom of our hill so if I don’t make it to main market, I can just pop down the hill and get what I need.

Local shops sell fresh food too

Local shops sell fresh food too


This is burek, a local specialty, having Turkish origins.  It’s basically a pie usually made with meat but maybe vegetables and cheese too and wrapped in dough for baking.

Burek is the equivalent of local fast food and very widely available for a quick snack or meal.

Burek, a local food

This is the other local delicacy, Ćevapi (prounced ‘chevapi’) and consists of sausages or dumplings served in a somun (a local flat bread, very similar to a naan) with raw onions and spices.

You may get fries, salad (not likely) or rice on the side.  This is virtually the national dish and a very popular, quick meal in Sarajevo.



Bread is bought at a pekara (bakery) and these are dotted everywhere.  The price of bread is standardised across the city so there are no price wars.

Everyone has their own preferred pekara depending on the bread itself.  Emma enjoys the kifla, a kind of curved bread bun with salt on top, that she insists is sugar.

A loaf of bread is 1 KM, about 40p, and a kifla is 30 fenicks, about 12p.  The bread is fresh every day and very nice.

Additionally our pekara sells the best pizza in Sarajevo (not just our opinion, it’s city-famous).  They serve only one type of pizza, served on a thin crust, topped with a local dried meat and kajmak (a sort of cream cheese) melting in the middle.

A regular pizza is 7KM which is about £3.  We’re quite lucky to have this a block or two from our doorstep Winking smile

Fresh pekara

Remarkably, this is cheese!  Smoked cheese in a little wooden pot.

Smoked cheese in a little wooden pot

Unusual Fruit

This is a fruit I had not come across before.  It’s called alpine strawberries or fraises des bois, amongst other things, and basically a tiny strawberry with a slightly more tart taste.

They are really expensive but the lady at the market still gave us some to try then gave Emma a handful to eat for free.  Of course, we then felt obliged to buy some…

Fraises des bois

Some lovely, fresh raspberries

Beautiful fresh raspberries

Cherries fresh from our tree

Sometimes I don’t even need to go down to the market for fruit as we have a couple of varieties growing in the garden.  We have apple trees, though the apples are not ready yet; cherries (black ones and red ones) and grapes.

Fruit in our Garden

As mentioned in a previous blog entry (The Great Outdoors) a wasp colony were eating the grapes.  We managed to get rid of the wasps via the frankly ingenious idea (thank you, Alister) of hanging an empty, inflated brown paper bag in the garden.  This made the wasps think another nest had moved in and they all fled.

While this is good news, the grapes don’t exactly seem thriving and I’m not sure they’ll come to fruition this year.  Still, we’re keeping an eye on them so fingers crossed.  It would be so handy to pop outside for some grapes to put in Emma’s lunchbox each morning.

Apple tree in our garden

Cherries in our garden

Cherry tree in our garden

The cherry tree.  We’ve picked the lower branches bare so I’m now at the point of teetering on the top rung of the ladder.  Not sure what I’ll do when we can’t reach anymore!

Berries waiting to be picked

Grapes starting to bloom

Local Foods

This is Uštipci and kajmak.  As mentioned above kajmak is like a sour cream and a dairy product of a soft, creamy consistency and a slightly sour taste.

It’s obtained by fermentation of milk fat extracted during the cooking of raw cow’s milk.  Sounds great, right?  Actually it’s very nice, though the strength of taste differs with every restaurant or eatery we go to and is particularly good accompanied by Uštipci which are a kind of dumpling or donut type food local to the area.  Dreadfully unhealthy though, I imagine.

Uštipci and kajmak

Supermarket Shopping

We have lots and lots of supermarkets here.  I’ve not found one where I can buy everything I want or need in one go but we like to take turns anyway, I don’t like to be missing out on anything.

One thing we can all agree on is that all three of us dislike food shopping.  Emma usually tries to go to softplay instead, wish we had that option!  She does like to drive the little cars and push the child size trolleys though.

Emma ready to shop

Getting ready for Easter

A local supermarket Easter display.  Given the country is predominantly Muslim understandably Easter is not a big deal.  We couldn’t get traditional Easter eggs but plenty of chocolate bunny treats etc.

I couldn't resist the photo opportunity

Alright, I know, I know – immature.  But funny!

Helpful picture guides on the soup packets

These are soups.  Thankfully, they put helpful pictures on the front for people like me, so we know what we’re eating.

Huge choice of paprika

There’s a total obsession in this country with red peppers and paprika, of all kinds – dried, jarred, powdered.  It’s quiet remarkable though nice to have a good choice.

Wide coffee choice

Furthering the coffee obsession, stacks of the stuff available in the shops, so many different makes and kinds from individual sachets to bulk bags.

Nesquik is a Bosnian favourite

There’s a surprising fondness for Nesquik too – go figure!


I spoke about the fish and lamb you can eat by the side of the road in Jablanica here (Jablanica blog) but it would be apt to mention them again given the food based context.

Jablanica is famous for it’s jagnjetinja, roast lamb, which is cooked on spits by the side of the road and served up to passers-by.

This restaurant also served fish, which swam merrily in streams and ponds surrounding the establishment.  Fresh food indeed…

Fish trying to avoid death

Fish, oblivious to their fate.  Only in the pool closet to the our door kitchen did the fish seem to know what awaited them, as they all sank to the bottom of the pool and huddled in a corner.

Didn’t help much though, as the chef came along with a big net and scooped some up for cooking.  Nowhere to hide, little fishies.

Jagnjetinja - roast lamb

Jagnjetinja - roast lamb

The jagnjetinja in various stages of cooking.  It’s a bit grim if you don’t have an iron stomach but Alister assured me the food was delicious.  I had an omelette.  Enough said.

Jagnjetinja - roast lamb

The finished product.

Bacon Deprivation

Because Sarajevo is predominantly a Muslim city, it can be difficult to find pork products in the city.  The main supermarkets sell some very dubious hotdogs, dried ham and something called “spek” which is a tolerable substitute for bacon. However, to get anything more substantial, a short trip to the Republic of Serbska is required.

In the RS we’ve found a couple of supermarkets with pork butchers and a couple of stand-alone pork butcher shops. Two of those also run small cafes; you go in, point at what you want (chicken wrapped in bacon, Ćevapi wrapped in bacon, pork belly, etc) and they will cook it right in front of you.  Dirt cheap, and very, very tasty.

Decent sausages are a no-go in any area though.  I made sausage casserole not long after we got here and it was absolutely revolting.  Sausages should not crunch and break your teeth Confused smile

Overall, getting pork here can be done and it is a lot easier to achieve than getting a roast pig into Baghdad, as one of Alister’s colleagues once managed. Can’t find Marmite though, unforgiveably.

Vegetable Gardens

Many people grow vegetables in their gardens too, whether it be for personal use or for selling on.

Gardeners hard at work

Gardeners hard at work

Fresh eggs from my landlady’s chickens

Fresh eggs

Out in the countryside you’ll see lots of home grown apiaries and the honey (med) is sold in stalls by the side of the road.  Sometimes the stalls sell other things too, like fresh fruit, vegetables and juice.

Locally produced honey is a big thing here and could easily be internationally marketed if the country were more organised IMO.

Row of colourful beehives

Can't get fresher honey than this

Roadside med for sale

Stop for some fresh oranges

Kava (Coffee)

In BiH, coffee is the national drink and taken very, very seriously.  Traditional Bosnian coffee, or kava, is like Turkish coffee and incredibly strong.

Frankly I don’t know why Bosniacks are not climbing the walls with the amount of kava they drink and it certainly doesn’t explain why they all walk SO SLOWLY!

The first thing you need to know about kava is that it is served a little differently, in a džezva, a small pot that has a wide, flared-out base to contain the coffee grounds that are in a fine powder at the bottom (see picture underneath).

On the tray there are small ceramic cups (think espresso size) for drinking called fildžan and alongside are sugar cubes to mellow the bitterness of the coffee and then a type of candy called a Turkish delight that you can eat with the coffee or after.

Apparently the tradition is to dip the sugar cubes into the coffee then nibble them. Say what?! I bet the dentists love that.

Despite being the coffee drinker in the family, I’ve not dared try this concoction, sticking to my American style lattes. Alister tried it however even though he’s firmly in the tea camp. His expression said it all and I wish I had a picture but imagine the face you pull when you swallow some particularly vile medicine. Yep, that’s the one.

Coffee Rules

Interestingly there are also different kinds of coffee:

Razgalica – generally the first of the day and particularly strong and thick to wake you up (or give you palpitations);

Razgovarati – a coffee which is to be enjoyed mid –morning with friends and work colleagues (which explains why no-one seems to hold full time office hours);

Sutiti – and afternoon / evening cup to help you relax (!);

Sikter – a coffee so named to let you know it’s time to move on and go elsewhere. Subtle but useful.

To my relief you do find other coffees on most menus too, from American coffee (not sure what that is) to Nescafe (instant coffee, I suppose) and the more familiar espressos, lattes and white coffees. I always feel a bit of an outsider ordering a latte or white coffee but I know my limits.

Alister is unimpressed with the choice of teas on offer at most cafes but he has found a lovely little tea shop in town that sells all manner of loose teas (Franz & Sophie) so at least has a decent choice.

Coffee and cake treat

Bosanska kafa - traditional equipment

This must have been enjoyable

Oops, how did that happen?

Cafe Culture in full bloom

If the sun is shining, the streets are busy with socialising

Lots and lots of coffee houses and coffee drinkers Open-mouthed smile

Local cookies available at the markets

Many of the different Bosnian sweet biscuits on offer.

Our Favourite – Sladoled (Ice Cream)

Last but certainly not least, sladoled, or ice cream is extremely popular here in the warmer months.

Cheap, at roughly 40p for one scoop (a huge relief for cash strapped ex pats!), ice cream is widely available and practically essential to help keep cool and hydrated.  I’m sure I read that somewhere.  Possibly as I was typing it…

Local ice cream, so delicious and very cheap

Emma enjoying her sladoled

And that’s food here in BiH.  Next time I’ll do a blog on non-food shopping as I have plenty of photos to use up.  Stay tuned!  xx

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0 thoughts on “Food Shopping in Sarajevo

  1. I love your blog! I read it before but never saved the link, you are blogrolled now 🙂 Very well written and informative and funny!

    Mmm, food posts are always good.
    Great pictures, definitely worth risking arrest for 😉

  2. Why, thank you Kali! That’s most kind 🙂

    I had to reciprocate and check out your blog and your first post scared me – I have a deep, instinctive fear of Moomins! Don’t ask me why, I know it’s silly but honestly, I find them terrifying… *shudder* 😉


  3. Oh weird, it links to the writing one I’m guessing, haven’t used that or even looked at it in a long time! I won’t invite you round for tea then, I have a gazillion moomin mugs 😉

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