North Macedonia has a long and praised tradition of culinary delights. Over the centuries, many civilizations have enjoyed the produce of its fertile soil. Having avoided negative influences of urbanization, North Macedonia remains the agricultural heartland of the Balkans, filled with a wonderful variety of foodstuffs native to both Mediterranean and Central European climates. In fact, few countries as small as North Macedonia can offer such variety of products including everything from citrus fruits, grapes and hazelnuts to tobacco, rice and mountain teas.
In addition, North Macedonia is also rich in meat, producing beef, chicken, pork and lamb, and a whole range of game. North Macedonia's many lakes yield a variety of freshwater fish, most famous of all being Lake Ohrid Trout.
As a dairy producer, North Macedonia is especially well known for its cheeses: soft white cheese (sirenje), similar to Greek feta; yellow cheese (kashkaval), similar to Italian Locatello Romano; and also its yoghurt and milk. Every North Macedonian village offers unique and tasty local varieties.
North Macedonia is also famous for its wines, produced by unusually high quality grapes, such as Vranec, classic Cabernet Sauvignon, and mellow Merlot. Today, several small boutique wineries in North Macedonia produce delectable red and white wines comparable to any French, Italian or California vintages. Besides its wines, North Macedonian vintners produce fiery brandy (rakija) and mastica. Products of North Macedonia breweries are enthusiastically guzzled by tourists and locals alike.
Traditional North Macedonian cuisine combines Balkan and Mediterranean characteristics, inherited largely from Turkish tastes that prevailed during long centuries of Ottoman rule. Some specialties, such as taratur (sour yogurt with bits of cucumber), pindzur (cream salad with peppers and eggplant) and the world-famous baklava are characteristic of Balkan cuisine in general.
Other Turkish-influenced dishes include grilled beef kabobs and the omnipresent burek, a flaky sort of pie filled with ham, cheese, spinach, ground beef and combinations thereof.
North Macedonian dishes like tavce gravce (baked beans), shopska salata (a salad made of sliced tomato, cucumber and onion, topped with ground soft white cheese), selsko meso (pork chops and champignon mushrooms in a rich brown gravy), pastrmajlija (a sort of pizza topped with meat and sometimes egg) and, above all, ajvar (the national sauce, made from sweet red peppers).