Ćevapi (pronounced [tɕɛv̞ǎːpi]) or ćevapčići (formal diminutive, [tɕɛv̞ǎptʃitɕi], ћевапчићи) is a grilled dish of minced meat, a type of skinless sausage, found traditionally in the countries of southeastern Europe (the Balkans). They are considered a national dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and are also common in Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, as well as in Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania.
Ćevapi has its origins in the Balkans during the Ottoman period, and represents a regional speciality similar to the köfte kebab.
They are usually served of 5–10 pieces on a plate or in a flatbread (lepinje or somun), often with chopped onions, sour cream, kajmak, ajvar, feta cheese, minced red pepper and salt. Bosnian ćevapi are made from two types of minced beef meat, hand mixed and formed with a funnel, while formed ćevapi are grilled. Serb ćevapčići are made of either beef, lamb or pork or mixed.
Name and etymology
The word ćevap comes from Turkish kebab, sometimes with the South Slavic diminutive ending -čići (Albanian: Qebapa; Croatian: ćevapčići/ćevapi; Slovene: čevapčiči/čevapi; Bosnian, Serbian: ћевапчићи/ћевапи ćevapčići/ćevapi; Macedonian: ќебапчиња, kjebapčinja; Bulgarian: Кебапчета, kebapcheta, Czech: čevabčiči). The word ćevapi is plural; the singular form ćevap is rarely used, as a typical serving consists of several ćevapi.
During the Ottoman administration, hajduks (rebels, outlaws) made the hajdučki ćevap (“hajduk kebab”), which was easy to make, out of pieces of meat and smoked lard on a skewer roasted over fire. The recipe of the Leskovački ćevap (“Leskovac ćevap”), a local specialty of Serbia, was based on traditional Pljeskavica (meat patty), formed as sausage (ćevap). Leskovac has a long history of grill shops. In Belgrade, ćevapčići first came from Leskovac in the 1860s, into the kafana “Rajić” at the Great Marketplace (today Studentski Trg), from where they quickly spread across the city, and subsequently, country. The industry quickly multiplied, as ćevapčići was the drinking public’s favourite.
The ćevapčići were served at shops, known as ćevabdžija (pl. ćevabdžije). A 1927–28 study in Belgrade told that people either ate in the restaurant or outside (“on the kaldrma”), often take-away. The shops served from early morning to 10 AM, while often the dish was bought for breakfast.
Before the 1930s, they spread to the rest of Yugoslavia, including east of Serbia and the Macedonia region. By 1932, ćevapčići were regarded a local specialty in southern Serbia, Skopje and Peć. In 1933, the first street food vendor appeared in Maribor, Slovenia, who came from Leskovac, and served grilled meat, including ćevapčići. In 1940, ten pieces cost one Yugoslav dinar. In the second half of the 20th century, ćevapčići and other Oriental dishes entered Croatian cuisine. The Leskovac-styled grilled meat, including ćevapčići, have today become part of everyday-diet in Slovenia Today, ćevapčići are found outside former Yugoslavia in the diaspora communities.
Today, the grill shops are known as ćevabdžinica (pl. ćevabdžinice).
Leskovac organizes an annual grill festival, the Leskovac Grill Festival, as a showcase of ćevapi and other grilled meat.