Along with sun-filled skies and long, lingering days summer brings with it the smells of grilling meat and charcoal smoke that seem to fill the suburbs every Sunday afternoon, It’s Barbecue season!
And while the tradition of cooking meat over charcoal is revered around the world, barbecue means different things to different people. Even here in the U.S., it can mean cooking burgers in the backyard, or slow-roasting a whole hog over a fire pit, depending on whether you’re from the North or South.
So take a look at barbecues around the world and choose your favorite:
Sausage Sizzle – Australia
You might think that in a country famous for its ‘surf ‘n’ turf’, shrimp and steak would feature heavily on an Aussie barbecue. Well, you’d be wrong. Australians are also famous for keeping things simple, and that’s exactly what they’ve done with their barbecue. Sausages, big, meaty sausages, cooked on a grill and served in a bun loaded with grilled onions and mustard, is what it’s all about down under. And not a shrimp in sight.
Barbacoa – Mexico
Barbacoa is meat, usually, beef or goat, wrapped in maguey leaves and then slowly steam cooked in an underground pit until it is tender enough to melt in your mouth. Although considered traditionally Mexican, this form of cooking actually originated in the Caribbean with the Taino people. Some food historians claim that this is the original form of barbecue, and while this may be unprovable, it is certainly the origin of the word barbecue. Serve on warm corn tortillas with salsa, diced onions, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
South Africans love their barbecue so much, they even have a National Braai Day. Braai features pork and beef sausages (called boerewors), chicken or lamb skewers (sosaties), and various jerky meats known as biltong, served with pap, a corn-based porridge similar to grits, and South African wines.
Asado – Argentina
You just know that in a country of dedicated carnivores like Argentina, a barbecue has to be good. Here they don’t bother with cuts of meat, they just sling a whole animal on the grill, toss together a few simple salads and maybe grill some veggies to go with it, and eat and drink until the small hours.
Rostilj – Serbia
And we’ve saved the best for last! While barbecue may not have been invented in Serbia, it certainly has been perfected; ćevapčići (skinless sausages of ground pork and beef) pljeskavice (ground pork and beef patties) kobasice (sausage, usually spiced up with hot paprika), krmenadle (pork chops), ražnjići (shish kebab), pileće grudi (chicken breast), svinjski vrat (pork neck) and slices of fresh bacon, grilled lovingly over a charcoal fire, it just doesn’t get any better. Traditionally served with lepinja (flatbread similar to pita bread) fresh seasonal salads, urnebes (a dip of soft cheese, hot paprika and onions) kajmak (a dairy product similar to clotted cream, but better) and diced onions.
And did I mention onions? No Serbian rostilj is complete without large helpings of diced onions. In fact, many diehard rostilj fans will forgo all salads and garnishes to concentrate on the meat, but never the onions. Copious amounts of Rakija are drunk as an aperitif, and it’s all washed down with beer or wine, spritzer on hot summer days.
Rostilj is everywhere in Serbia, in backyards, on the menu of high-class restaurants and in dedicated hole-in-the-wall eateries so if you’re a barbecue fan, visit Serbia and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Or do the next best thing and visit the Rakija Lounge here in Miami for a real taste of the Balkans.