Friday, September 23, 2011
Bosnien: das siebente Mal hat Charme
The Islamic Cultural Center of the Bosnians in Berlin is a little tricky to figure out, but seeing as I have a bizarre amount of dedication to this project, I have conquered it. After six unsuccessful attempts to eat something "authentically" Bosnian, I finally made it. I stumbled across the ICCBB's website when I was looking for someplace definitively Bosnian to eat. The problem with messy history, is that it makes it difficult to tell exactly what is Bosnian. I imagine at least some of the Balkan places in Berlin are run by Bosnians, but they could also be Albanian or Macedonian or Croatian. Of course it works the other way, as well. The Albanian place I visited could be run by ethnic Bosnians and some of the people involved with the ICCBB could have (had) Albanian passports. The country of Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to three ethnic groups: the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Croats. I'm pretty sure neither the Serbs or the Croats were represented at the ICCBB, but I did visit a Croatian restaurant and I'll do my best to find something Serbian if I ever make it to S. I can tell you that based on a little internet research and a few restaurant meals, Albania, Bosnia, and Croatia have similar cuisines. Clearly, this is tricky business, but I think the fact that I went to the center seven times suggests that I did at least try to find something legit. Whatever legit means.
It took seven tries to get a meal at the ICCBB because it isn't really a restaurant, but a mosque and cultural center. I'd like to tell you more about it, but the website is all in Bosnian. When I first found the website, the only part I was able to decipher was the address. So I went there, figuring that they might be able to point me in the direction of a "genuine" Bosnian restaurant. Unfortunately, it was closed, but there was a man fixing the front step so I asked him: is there anywhere I can find Bosnian food in Berlin? He beamed: here! His German was't great, but he showed me inside where there is a little cafeteria and a small store selling a few Bosnian products. This was just before Ramadan (see how long I've been at this?!) and he said that the cook had gone back to Bosnia, but if I came back after Ramadan, I would be able to eat in the cafe. So, in September, I tried to go for a late lunch, but the center was again closed and this time nobody was fixing the front step. Eventually, I was able (with the aid of an internet Bosnian-English dictionary) to figure out the schedule (M-Th, 4pm-8pm; F-Sa, 11am-10pm; Su, 10am-10pm). Off I went for an early dinner only to discover that food is only served on Fridays and Saturdays. I tried again on the next available Saturday only to discover that that week, food was available on Friday and Sunday. This went on a few more times, until a few Sundays back when we happened to be wandering around Kreuzberg, a friend suggested that since we were nearby we might as well check and see if the ICCBB was open. I was sure that the place would be locked up, but lo and behold there were lights on and a few people inside. I'd been fooled by these clues before, though, but when we peaked around the corner, people were moving around in the cafe area. With trepidation, I inquired: is it possible to eat something today? Yes, the man behind the counter said, we have cevapi (aka cevapcici). So, cevapi it was. Unlike the Albanian and Croatian cevapcici, these came served sandwich style on a toasted flatbread (Turkish pide) with some sliced onions and a big dollop of what I thought was yogurt cheese, but may have been kaymak. The sandwich presentation and the kaymak is really what set these cevapi apart from the others I've had. The kaymak (or whatever it was) was great. This is one of those condiments that elevates most any dish. I can't say that the cevapi were better than the others, but they weren't worse either. At 4 Euros, you could get a better kebab-type sandwich elsewhere in the neighborhood, but you would miss out on thrill of actually managing to eat actual food at the ICCBB. I have the feeling that if you could read Bosnian (and thus the website) or if you were lucky, you might stumble upon a really good event there featuring other interesting and definitely homemade Bosnian dishes. As it is, dining at the ICCBB does require some patience and/or luck. If you decide to check it out, go with a plan B (avoid the awful Santa Maria Mexican Diner around the corner on Oranienstrasse at all costs).
Islamic Cultural Center of the Bosnians in Berlin
Adalbertstrasse 94 (hinterhaus)