What can be better than a hearty, tasty, homecooked Slavic meal? The additional dip or sauce it comes with, of course! Through the ages our ancestors have developed a number of recipes for a plethora of dips, spreads and sauces, which not only compliment the main dish, but actually boost its initial flavor. Here are some of the best ones found across Slavic and Balkan territories – all of which deserve to be tasted at least once in your lifetime.
If you’re not in the mood for slaving over the stovetop for hours, just opt for a store-bought version, but do keep in mind that nothing beats the authentic flavor Slavs grew up with.
One of the most popular aspects of Balkan culture is the almighty ajvar. Popular in numerous countries outside Slavic grounds, its origins are mainly contributed to Serbian and Macedonian cuisine. In a nutshell, it’s a mixture of red bell peppers, spices and oil. Its homemade and eventually commercial production peaked after World War II, but it still remains an all-time favorite among Slavs even nowadays.
Quark/ dairy curd
There are countless variations of dairy curds, mainly produced from milk or cheese, which have become an irreplaceable aspect of Slavic cuisine through the centuries, with quark, twaróg and izvara being the most common ones. Used as spreads or as the base for dips and side dishes, dairy curds are delicious in any form.
One of the many things Russia made mainstream during the old USSR times was the zucchini ikra dip, which was once dubbed as “poor man’s caviar” due to the fact that there is no caviar used in its preparation. Instead, this “caviar” is made with pureed carrots, zucchini, tomatoes and onions. It might not sound as fancy as the real deal, but it’s tasty nonetheless.
Ostensibly plain, this Romanian sauce goes great with casseroles, stews, fish and even something as simple as French fries. What makes it significantly different from the typical garlic sauces used worldwide is the fact that it’s stronger, runnier and extremely spicy rather than creamy and mild due to the fact that its primary ingredients are crushed garlic cloves mixed together with oil.
Similarly to ajvar, this Balkan spread is based on red bell peppers and spices. It comes in finer and chunkier variations. Unlike ajvar, though, it also includes tomatoes, but different recipes call for other additional ingredients such as carrots and garlic. Ljutenica is most commonly found across Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia.
Many may argue that ljutenica, ajvar and pindjur are the same thing. However, what differs the latter one from the rest is the fact that it’s chunkier and tomatoes serve as a mandatory ingredient rather than an optional one. Nevertheless, quite similarly to ajvar and ljutenica, the preparation of pindjur literally takes hours of hard labor.
Used as a spread and side dish instead of as a dip, the Polish gzik is a strikingly simple, yet flavorful goodie that goes well with eggs, potatoes or simply a good old toast of bread. Curd cheese, cream, onion and freshly chopped chives are the culprits for its winning formula. It really is absolutely fail-proof!
Last, but definitely not least, comes another spread that can also be served as a side dish. Malidzano is made out of bell peppers, eggplant and spices. Depending on the recipe, it can be prepared with green, red or yellow bell peppers, which is why it can come in different colors. The eggplants are the real star in this one, and it’s mostly eaten in Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia.