A quaint fast food restaurant situated in Nairobi's Westlands is the only restaurant serving Balkan cuisine. The menu at Balkan Grill House is described as ex Yugoslavian cuisine.
They serve up dishes that are popular in countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia among others. Over 50 chicken, beef and lamb dishes are served here, each cooked differently using spices from this region.
A popular style of cooking at Balkan involves mincing meat and preparing it into skinless sausages and this is then served with either fries, deep-fried matoke or Balkan bread called lepinja.
“Lepinja is a traditional bread that we make in-house the Croatian way. During the baking process, two layers separate and its hollow centre forms a pocket which can be filled with different items to make sandwiches or served on its own as an accompaniment," says Stanislav Kaleb, director.
“We decided to bring this cuisine to Kenya to offer something unique and to also provide homemade food to our people here in Kenya. Our dishes derive the authentic Balkan flavour from the seasoning we use which is from Croatia and is available in the local supermarkets,” he adds.
“The most popular cooking method in Croatia is baking however here at Balkan Grill House, being a fast-food restaurant our dishes are mostly deep-fried or grilled,” adds Kaleb.
A must-have spice that this restaurant uses is called Vegeta, an all-purpose seasoning made from herbs, spices and select natural ingredient. The spice is sourced from Croatia.
Kaleb had us try the Ćevapi (pronounced Chae-vap or Chae-vap-ee,) a traditional meat dish featuring tiny, hand-rolled minced meat sausages which are commonly made with ground beef — or a mix of beef mince with other meats such as lamb or veal — seasoned with a mix of different spices; including garlic, salt, black pepper, and sometimes paprika or hot red pepper flakes. The Ćevapi was served on a moist lepinja flatbread accompanied by kachumbari and fries. The skinless sausage was tender with a smoky flavour.
To prepare Ćevapi, high-quality minced meat is hand-rolled into sausage shapes then grilled. The meat can be a mix of different varieties which makes this traditional dish more flavourful.
“I like the meat quality found in Nairobi. Honestly, it is better quality than what we have back in Croatia. Here, the cattle are taken out to graze while in Europe they are sometimes given artificial products which make the meat unhealthy," highlights Edin Hot, Executive Chef.
The next dish we had was the deep-fried Chicken Breast Only. It was soft and pillowy on the inside and crunchy on the outside with a balance of moisture.
“The secret to how our bread is so soft is because it is left to rest twice after kneading. We make it fresh daily where we mix flour, yeast and oil,” adds Chef Edin.