Here are 10 dishes you must try.
This dish made from a vegetable similar to cabbage is represented all the way from the north to the south of the country, but the meat used depends on the place where it is made. So you can choose collard with flour-stuffed sausages, dried meat, ribs, smoked mutton, bacon, or pork shank. Although it is counted as a winter dish, you must try it whenever you visit Montenegro. Look for a restaurant that prepares it in the traditional way – in a cauldron over an open fire. It has an intense aroma, and in terms of taste is similar to broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It is an exceptionally health dish, rich in potassium, calcium, beta-carotene, lutein, as well as vitamins C, B1, B2, and B9. Interestingly, collard has a greater nutritional value when it has been boiled than when it is raw.
Collard is a classic of Montenegrin cuisine. Apart from the usual way of preparing it – with sausage and smoked mutton – you can also try it in the form of yaprak. Small collard leaves or vine leaves, filled with meat, make a bite that is long remembered. You will be welcomed with and served these at celebrations and family saints days. It goes perfectly with spirits, but also with soured milk. You can find the Montenegrin version of sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves) in all parts of the country, from north to south. Collard is a hardy plant which is able to grow on the coast, but is also resistant to cold weather. After a frost it even becomes softer and sweeter.
Visiting Cetinje and not trying Njeguši prosciutto is like visiting Nikšić and not trying Nikšić’s beer. Both are unique symbols of Montenegro, although the best accompaniment to this meat delicacy is loza brandy – an alcoholic spirit produced from grapes. Prosciutto is dried pork, whose aroma and taste vary from region to region, but the secret of Njeguši prosciutto is the unique climate of Mt. Lovćen, whose summits rend the sky above Boka Kotorska Bay where the mountain and Mediterranean climates meet. This is used as an hors d’oeuvre, served with priganice (a small type of doughnut), yellow cheese, and olives. You can try it all over Lovćen National Park. You can enjoy it after climbing the many steps to Njegoš’s mausoleum, after walking through the Royal Capital of Cetinje, or after cruising on the Lake Skadar. But there is something special about trying it in the village of Njeguši, from where it originates. Your gastronomic experience will be made complete by the rich history of this place, by a visit to the house where the Montenegrin royal family was born, but also by the magnificent view over Boka Bay.
You can descend from Cetinje via the famous serpentines through Njeguši, right up to Boka Kotorska Bay. The drive itself does not take long, but you will want to stop the car several times in order to enjoy the magnificent view. When you arrive in Kotor, order a portion of Boka stew. This delicious Mediterranean fish dish will invigorate you before you set off to look around one of the 10 most beautiful bays in the world. This stew is prepared all along the Adriatic coast, but each place has its own recipe and story behind it. It was made up by fishermen, so that the small fry that didn’t get sold at the market wouldn’t go to waste, and the Boka version is characterised by the fact that only one type of fish is used to make it. This type is most often conger eel, which is plentiful in Boka Bay, and which is most delicious when prepared precisely in this way, in white wine and vegetables with aromatic herbs. See for yourself why they call this the “stew of stews”!
If you visit the bay without trying Perast cake with a cup of coffee and a view over the Island of Our Lady of the Rock, you haven’t really been to Boka Bay. This crisp cake, originating from the romantic town of Perast, is a real jewel of Boka cuisine. And how else can a cake be whose recipe came out of true love? Since long ago, wives have sent off and greeted their mariner husbands with these cakes, so this sweet serves as a symbol of love and faithfulness. Perast cake remains fresh for a long time, so mariners would eat them over months, in order to enjoy the smell and taste of their home for as long as possible. A crisp crust, the taste of ground almonds, the smell of lemon and vanilla – sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
Lake Skadar National Park will delight you with its nature, cultural heritage, but also with the imaginative way of preparing fish specialities. Carp, bleak, and eels are caught most, but the locals prepare them in a variety of ways. Try carp with dried plums, apple, and quince, roasted with onion, dried in the sun, smoked, marinated, or prepared Podgorica-style. You must also try the homemade wine for which this area is known. Look for the “Wine Road” on which you can go around small, family-run wineries, tucked into fishing villages on the shores of Lake Skadar. Apart from carp, here you can also try other fish specialities such as barbecued eel or bleak salad.
Traditional Montenegrin cooking often reminds us of the housewives who once used to make real delicacies from the few ingredients that were available. One of these dishes is balls of dough similar to doughnuts – priganice (pronounced ‘priganitse’). These arose out of poverty, made from flour and water, but they have remained a staple right up until the present day. They are a vital detail of many holidays, such as Christmas Eve, and Montenegrin women prepare them at least once a week for dinner and breakfast. This modest detail of Montenegrin cooking is served in every corner of the country, with honey, Njeguši prosciutto, and cheese from Pljevlja or Kolašin.
Pljevlja cheese, like Njeguši prosciutto, is found on the list of protected Montenegrin products which have been produced in the same way for centuries. Its quality comes from the high altitude of the cultivated pasturelands, the unpolluted air, but also the secret recipe which has been handed down from generation to generation. It belongs to the group of white, brined cheeses, semi-hard or soft, matured or unmatured. It is made from unpasteurised milk. This full-fat cheese, with a fat content of around 25%, is placed into tubs whole, without being cut into slices. Besides Pljevlja cheese, cheese lovers will not be able to resist the layered cheese from Njeguši and Kolašin.
Do you avoid having lamb on your plate because of its intense smell? Then you certainly have not tried Durmitor-style lamb. Cooked in milk, the meat loses its characteristic smell and becomes soft and tasty. If you also add to that kaymak (a type of cream cheese) made from sheep’s milk, you get a combination with an unforgettable taste. Try this gastronomic treat when you take a break from looking around the lavish beauty of Durmitor National Park, but also all across the north of Montenegro. Meat lovers will not be able to resist the lamb cooked under a sač (an iron bell on which hot embers are placed, pronounced ‘satch’), which is slow-roasted for a long time, and the meat becomes so soft that it falls off the bone. The juices from the meat are delicious, so we recommend that you order a side of homemade bread to mop them up.
Melted-cheese kačamak and cicvara (pronounced ‘katchamak’ and ‘tsitsvara’) are traditional Montenegrin dishes which are prepared in the north for breakfast, with a cup of soured milk. They are so calorific that you won’t need anything but water until dinner time. Kačamak is made from potato, flour, kaymak, and cheese according to a simple recipe, but it is not easy to make because it requires physical strength for mashing the mixture. Melted-cheese kačamak should be well “crushed”. The harsh surroundings spawned strong people who, thanks to their healthy, strong food, managed to survive in the mountains. Montenegro is a small country, but it is full of contrasts which are also reflected in the preparation and consumption of food. If you don’t believe this, order melted-cheese kačamak somewhere on the coast and you will get some bewildered looks. They have neither eaten nor prepared it.