One of our happier surprises last summer was going to dinner with some friends at a place they chose, Restoran Oskar in Dorćol. This was in fact a place we had passed hundreds of times but never noticed, its appearance is not remarkable from the outside and not much more remarkable inside (when we arrived, we were the only customers save for a couple of cops who were watching a football match). The food was traditional and perfectly prepared, and nicely set off by good rakija and some outstanding Slovenian wine.

Like in so many good places, the best approach at Oskar is to ignore the menu and ask the waiter what is good today. On that day they were featuring sarme (lamb sarme!) with raštan kupus, and the waiter more or less insisted that we have this Montenegrin specialty. Everyone at the dinner will support me in saying these were the best sarme we had eaten in our lives. And naturally we became addicted to raštan, got it and made some sarme of our own, and began to lament the fate the fate that awaited us on our return to a forlornly raštan-free Massachusetts. Apparently other lovers of that little slice of leafy heaven have confronted the same problem.

But now a friend of East Ethnia writes in to tell us that, after exhaustive and delicious research, he has determined that raštan is nothing more or less than that humble and hearty (and monumentally healthy) Southern staple, the collard green. I love them, children hate them, and the bitterness can be turned into a fine sweetness by sauteeing them with a bit of vinegar. Anyone who is intimidated by their healthiness should be reassured by the fact that they go best with some nice, greasy, salty smoked meat.

This also solves an old East Ethnian mystery. Way back in 2006, we posted a photo of a proud farmer with what had to be the biggest kupus anyone had seen. A canny philologist noted that it looked a lot like blitva. Well, there you have it.


Yakima_Gulag said...

alright, I have been searching all over the place for some vital information, what is the word in B/H/S for horseradish? Is horseradish at all available in the region? This is important, because I have a stomach condition GREATLY helped by regular consumption of horseradish.

Today's secret Klingon Word:zoefuda
Klingonese for horseradish

Eric Gordy said...

In Serbia: ren
In Croatia: hren
In japan: wasabi

Yakima_Gulag said...

hvala najlipsa! this helps me a LOT! :)
I knew what it was called in Japanese, and actually REAL wasabi isn't horseradish, it's a relative of watercress, which is seriously expensive, so it's seldom seen in the U.S. Powdered 'wasabi' available in stores is actually powdered 'Western Wasabi' aka horseradish, dyed with spinach, and if you are lucky flavored with a tiny hit of real wasabi.

Bg anon said...

Is horseradish at all available in the region?


There are many afficionados. Ren is particularly eaten with pork.

Heres a culinary tip, if you are ever served a bland soup either at somebodies house or in a restaurant ask for some ren. It really does the trick in the flavour department.

Eric whats the name of the street? And we are talking pretty cheap right?

Eric Gordy said...

It's on Braca Baruh. It's not super cheap, I guess about standard prices for Bg restaurants.

But if it's specialties with ren you are after, go for Stara Hercegovina. It's a hyperkafana, they specialize in large hunks of meat with beer.

Yakima_Gulag said...

I made some rastan sarama probably not perfect, because a real recipe wasn't findable online, but probably close enough, and it was GOOD, I am going to do that again sometime! I used the leaves, blanched them, and did a mix of lamb and rice, just salt and pepper for seasonings, and then cooked the lot in chicken broth. The lack of the right sausage was too bad, but we don't have that in our Gulag! :)
It came out delicious and yes went quite nicely with a glass of slivo!:)

András said...

Here's a recipe, one of several (all variations on the same theme) found on Montenegro tourism websites, e.g.
and in Montenegrin recipes section of the cooking Wipedia


For the preparation of japraci you need 1kg of rastan, 400g of beef meat, 2dl of oil, 150g of onion, and 80g of rice, salt, pepper and parsley as you wish, and 200g of dry meat.

Fresh and young leaves of rastan you have to separate from the stalk and separate the bumped part of the leaf. Wash them in the cold water and cook them in boiling salted water for a couple of minutes. When the leaves are blanched take them out and immediately put them in cold water so that they can preserve the natural color. Until the usage keep them in cold water. Beef’s meat from the neck or from the shoulder blade should be separated from the bones, any root hairs and fat and chopped with a sharp knife. Peel the onion wash it and chop it in small. Select the rice and wash it, and then drain it good. In a suitable dish on the fat which is already on a hot temperature put the chopped onion so that it can be stewed. On the stewed onion you add the chopped meat ands stew all that together. When the onion and the meat are stewed you add a certain dose of the prepared rice and stew that all together. You spice the mass with a little bit of salt, milled pepper and parsley and let that all to cool off. On every leaf of rastan you put a spoon of the mass and fold (roll) the leaves. Out the rolls in the pot, pour over the water, let the rolls boil on a hot temperature, and then cook them for about 2 hours on a low temperature. (Suggestion: between japraci you could put dry meat – 1 piece per portion – and cook all that together). In the end put in the browned flour (in hot fat stew the flour with red pepper and pour that over japraci) and let that boil for few more minutes. Serve them with sour milk.

Igor said...

Hren also in Slovene. It's a part of a traditional Easter meal (breakfast usually).