Welcome to Day #36 of 100 Days of Travel. One of the best parts of the Balkans is eating all the varied forms of ajvar, a traditional spread made from roasted red peppers. You can order in most restaurants and enjoy on bread with a bit of white cheese or smeared over grilled meat.
A Short History
Ajvar was invented by (…searches the history of ajvar and opens a typical Balkan rabbit hole of nationalism, rewritten history, and weirdly, UK pop star Dua Lipa). Slowly backs out room, quietly closes the door). I’m just going call it a regional dish.
Now that we know where ajvar came from, how is it made and what ingredients (…oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Even the recipes are controversial?). As I’ve learned, the only correct ajvar recipe is the secret family one that your grandmother (babushka) has used for the last hundred years (okay?).
I remarked when I went to Prilep that the air was filled with the scent of roasting peppers. I desperately wanted to see the process closer up, but couldn’t pull up the courage to approach strangers in their yard. Luckily, when I was staying in Ohrid, I smelled the familiar scent once again coming from the garage. My hosts gave me a crash course in ajvar and more than I could possibly eat in one sitting (update: I ate it all in one sitting). First you spend the day roasting the peppers over these small cooks stoves. For this small family of half a dozen people, they had hundreds of peppers slowly cooking on the hot plates. You peel off the skins of the eggplants and peppers and mash it up with some onions and garlic – I think. I might have fallen asleep during this part.
Here’s a recipe for ajvar. As I’m in Macedonia, it’s from a Macedonian website, so according to the surrounding countries, it’s completely incorrect. The one thing that everyone does agree on is that you should never under any circumstances purchase store-bought ajvar.
And now that you understand a little bit about ajvar, you can now enjoy this deep-cut Balkan memes…