Shopska, Planning a Trip to the Western Balkans one Salad at a Time

by Sarah on April 23, 2010

shopska, bulgarian salad

I am in charge of planning our family trip to the Western Balkans this summer and so far I have done very little. Instead of diligently reading the Lonely Planet guide and mapping out our route I surf the internet for Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian recipes.

In the framework of researching for our trip I made a tomato and cucumber salad called shopska which is similar to the salads that are popular throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Turkey. The only difference is that in Bulgaria shopska is topped with a cloud of grated Bulgarian cheese from the Shar Mountain region where the cows and sheep graze in lush pastures and produce the creamiest of milk. It is here that authentic shopska originated because of the unique flavor of the local produce. Of course those from Macedonia and Serbia think that Bulgarians’ hoarding of the shopska is ridiculous as it is a regional food and equally popular throughout many parts of the Balkans. Bulgarians claim that Shopska is derived from the word shopi, citizens of the mountainous region of Sophia, Bulgaria although it is also defined as an ethnic group which spans neighboring countries as well. This has piqued my interest and I will be planning the family trip from one shopska to another to find out just who makes the better salad.

Food from the western Balkans is heavily influenced by Turkish cuisine. While the Spaniards were the first to bring tomatoes and peppers back from the New World it was the Ottoman Turks who are credited in dispersing these exotic foods from North Africa, where they replaced Spanish control, to the rest of their Empire. The shopska is similar to the Greek salad which also uses a type of white brined cheese, called feta, which is protected by the European Union.

shopska inspired salad

Not very Bulgarian Shopska

This is not a very authentic version of shopska by any standard but just what I happened to have at home when I became inspired. I also did not grate the cheese into a pyramid which seems is the defining point of the salad.

2 tomatoes, chopped into cubes

2 cucumbers, chopped

2 bell peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced

A handful of olives, preferably black (I used green)

2 green onions chopped

A bunch of parsley, finely chopped

A handful of mixed baby greens

100 grams Bulgarian cheese

Salt, vinegar and oil to dress (I used lemon juice and olive oil)

Mix everything together and dress with oil and vinegar.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Yael the Finn April 23, 2010 at 3:20 am

Yummy,I want that too!

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dragonpearls April 23, 2010 at 5:27 am

This is a great and, no doubt, a delicious interpretation of Shopska, dear Sarah. The olives beeing the non canonical ingredient there, rather than the non grated cheese. Have a nice trip to my former home country. I see, you’re doing the best of preparation already. ;-)

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Sarah April 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

thank you, it is a wonderful salad and I can understand why it is loved so much in the Balkans.

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Ingredients of a Woman April 23, 2010 at 7:26 am

Beautiful colors!

Alba H. Rodriguez

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Emily @Cleanliness April 23, 2010 at 10:10 am

That salad is GORGEOUS! So many colors. I bet it tastes just as wonderful as it looks :-)

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lisaiscooking April 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

A pyramid of cheese sounds nice, but your version looks delicious just as is! I love these flavors together in a salad.

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Celeste April 23, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Looks very much like my salad last evening.
I am hoping to prepare some Turkish food for some friends prior to their trip to Turkey in the summertime.
Still, as much as I enjoy learning new recipes, it still does not compare to being there and enjoying food prepared from the hands who know their stuff.
Ah, one day I will travel to Turkey myself.

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Sarah April 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm

thank you, I definately want to visit local villages to see how they make there food, I just wish I spoke the language.

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OysterCulture April 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

This salad sounds amazing and I loved the backstory of how it came to be. Funny how most of those dishes result in a cross border tug of way for claiming rights. I agree, for scientific purposes that a comparison study is definitely in order and look forward to your final determination.

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Cmiranda April 27, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I’ve never tried or heard of shopska but this salad looks very beautiful.

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Nikolce July 27, 2010 at 1:22 am

Shopska isn`t with bell peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced, this is ingedient in salad is called Macedonian. Shopska is on the top with grated White brined cheese. Shar mountain together with montains from Mavrovo region are in Macedonia, they are famous with White brine cheese made from row sheep milk from high pastures.
You are welcome to Macedonia!

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Bk November 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

This is original bulgarian salad not Macedonian salad! shopska salad was established in Bulgaria by a travel agency. called Balkanturist. They wanted to impress tourists with a new salad and so created Shopska salad.

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