‘Wait! I hear you cry: ‘Burek is not a Slovene dish! It most definitely came to the Balkans via Turkey.’ Well, this is certainly true, but burek is to Slovenia what the pasty is to the UK: a hot and tasty fast food item to eat on the go, a cheap lunch option and most certainly an integral part of Slovenia’s culinary heritage. It is especially popular in Ljubljana, so much so that people from other parts of the country make fun of Ljubljana residents by saying ‘What’s the matter with you? Did you eat too much burek?’ (I have this on good authority – from my husband!)
The history of the Burek
Burek originated as the Turkish borek, a recipe possibly created for the Ottoman court. It is a pastry dish in which thin filo pastry is wrapped around a meat or fresh cheese filling, then rolled into a long cylindrical shape which can be made into a large spiral pastry or smaller individual portions (as pictured in the Featured Image above).
Burek was brought to the Balkans at the time of the Ottoman conquest. The recipe was also absorbed into Greek, North African and even Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish culinary tradition. You can’t argue with the historical evidence: how ever much the conquerors were loathed at the time of these conquests, there is not a lot not to like about a hot meat or cheese-filled pastry!
Varieties of Burek
In Slovenia, the most popular fillings are mesni (meat), sirov (cheese) or špinačni (with cheese and spinach). In Bosnia and Hercegovina (where burek is called pita, just to keep you on your toes) potato (krompiruša) filling is also popular, as is višnja (a sweet version with sour cherry). You can also get weird and wonderful flavours like pizza burek: but I recommend the more traditional options if you want to experience the authentic taste!
The best Burek in Slovenia?
You will find burek on sale in bakeries (pekarne) all over Slovenia. As Ljubljana is famous for its burek culture, if you’re going there you should try Olimpija, or Nobel Burek: they are both located in the city centre not far from the main train station.
I have to say that the best burek I’ve had in Slovenia was from the Dan in Noč bakery in Izola, so if you’re visiting the coast and want to try burek, I would recommend it. Their meat filling is particularly tasty and…I think I might have to rush out and buy one right now!
And if this wasn’t enough burek for you, here’s a song all about it from the Slovenian artist ‘Ali En:’
Here are the lyrics, with an approximate translation:
Se bastasse uno sirni e mesni… če si lačen
uno sirni e mesni za tebe… če si lačen
uno sirni e mesni za tebe na štacion
If a cheese one or a meat one were enough…if you’re hungry
A cheese one or a meat one for you just…if you’re hungry
A cheese one or a meat one just for you in the station:
Mam pr’jatla, ime mu je Ranko
da bi jedu burek je oropal banko
ma dragi Ranko, kaj ti to pomaga
v zaporu suh kruh in plesniva vlaga
kaj boš zdaj ko bureka ni
mraz pa stiska ti kosti
malo premisli, možgane pretegni
hitro pobegni in teci na…
I have a friend whose name is Ranko
That ate a burek then robbed a Bank(o)
My dear Ranko – what good of it?
In jail there’s dry bread, and mould where you sit
what’ll you do now there’s no burek
the cold squeezes your bones
think a little, crane your neck
quickly escape and run off for a…
Burek, burek mi ful pomaga
za trebuh, da ni prehlada
a včasih se je treba nahranit
za moč za ženo ubranit
ko je letu poštar iz našega praga
ga je vidu sosed in si mislu “vraga”
te so divji, te so močni
sam da od mastne hrane ne postanejo nori
dragi sosed, ne se bat za nas
od mnogo hrane ne moreš met ozek pas
a žene so boljše, otroci so mirni
saj ne jejo druge hrane kot pa mesni al pa sirni
Burek, burek really helps me with
my digestion, prevents nasal congestion
and sometimes you need to eat it
to defend your woman in a fight
when the postman went flying out the door
the neighbour said ‘hell’ when he saw
they are strong and wild whom fatty foods do not drive crazy
dear neighbour, please don’t worry: take it easy
with lots of food you can’t hope to have a narrow waist
but the wife is better and the children give us peace
because they don’t eat anything else but meat or cheese (burek)
Če ne vem kje naj ga dobim
kar takoj na štacion letim
in le tam povprašam ga
imaš sirni, imaš mesni, daj ga hitro, Bog te tresni
mesni, sirni, saj ni važno, burek jem te strastno
daj mi burek, sirov burek
mesni burek za moj…
If I don’t know where to get it
then I run right to the station
And there I ask my friend from the Albanian nation
You have cheesy, you have meaty? Give it fast, or God will strike you!
meat or cheese, it’s not important, burek, hungrily I eat you
give me burek, cheesy burek
meaty burek just for me…
Now please don’t tell me you want to know anything else about burek, because that’s all I got!