When I think about my family, I think about food. The smell of sautéd onions, grilled meat and feta cheese come to mind, and I feel a need to ground myself again in Serbian food.
My maternal grandparents came to Canada from Serbia. Coming here, they tried to find community and ended up meeting each other. Every family gathering revolved around food, featuring various meats, stews, pastas, salads and desserts. Even though I’ve never been to Serbia, I’m connected to it through the culture I was raised with. I feel homesick for a place I’ve never been, but I can make it better by enjoying the connections I have here.
Despite having a sizable community in Vancouver, there aren’t a lot of options for the various Balkan cuisines, except a plethora of Greek restaurants. One place always comes to mind when people ask me where to find good Serbian food in the area, and it’s worth the short trip to Burnaby to go there.
Balkan House, 7530 Edmonds Street
When you get off the 106 bus on Edmonds, you’ll immediately smell the grilled meat wafting outside. As I walk in the place, it looks like a lodge, and the restaurant is full of comfortable booths with flowers in the centre of every table.
The quintessential dish to get is Ćevapčići, which is a kebab-like minced meat in a short, sausage-like shape. It’s the national food of Serbia, where it is most often made with veal and pork, and comes with mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, onions and ajvar, which is a red pepper paste often served alongside ćevapčići.
For dessert, the best thing to try is krempita, which is a cake made of puff pastry and custard, topped with powdered sugar. The layers of soft pastry and custard are surprisingly not overly sweet, but just enough to satisfy a dessert craving alongside a cup of coffee, which is basically mandatory once you’ve eaten so much food you’re ready to fall asleep in that comfy booth.
Everything about this place is authentic: from the various genres of Serbian music they cycle through to the food that will remind any Serb of their grandmother. I believe that even if you’re not from the Balkans or even anywhere close, this place will make you feel like you’re at home.