|Alternative names||Burek, börek, bourekas, boreg, byrek|
|Place of origin||Turkey|
|Region or state||Many|
|Main ingredients||Flaky pastry (usually filo), various fillings|
|Variations||Meat, potatoes, leafy greens, cheese, eggplant, mushrooms|
Borek or burek is a filled Anatolian, Balkan, Cypriot, Middle Eastern and Central Asian pie made of a thin flaky dough such as filo with a variety of fillings, such as meat, cheese, spinach or potatoes. Boreks are mainly associated with the areas of the Anatolia, Middle East, Armenia, and also with the former Ottoman Empire, including the Balkans and the Caucasus, Eastern European and Central European countries, Northern Africa and Central Asia. A borek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. They are usually baked but some varieties can be fried. Borek is sometimes sprinkled with sesame or nigella seeds, and it can be served hot or cold.
It is a custom of Sephardic Jews to have bourekas for their Shabbat breakfast meal on Saturday mornings. In Israel it has become commonplace to have borek as a breakfast food with coffee. It is commonly served with afternoon tea in Turkey. It is commonly served with a yogurt drink in Serbia and North Macedonia.
Origin and names
The English name borek comes from Turkish börek (Turkish pronunciation: [bœˈɾec]), while burek is the form used in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Other variants include byrek, in Albania; boureki in Greece; byurek (Bulgarian: Бюрек) in Bulgaria; brik in Tunisia; and burekas in Israel.
The Turkish word börek comes in turn from the Persian burak (بورک), the diminutive form of būra or buġra (بوره/بغره), meaning "stew", and refers to any dish made with yufka (filo). The Persian word bureh goes back to the Middle Persian *bōrak. This word ultimately goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *bher- which meant "to carve, cut, split,". Turkic languages have borrowed this word from Persian. The name of another pastry, shekarbura is also borrowed from the same Persian word.
Borek may have its origins in Persian or Turkish cuisine and may be one of its most significant and, in fact, ancient elements of the Turkish cuisine, having been developed in Central Asia before some westward migration to Anatolia in the late Middle Ages, or by nomadic Turks of central Asia some time before the seventh century. Another popular theory posits that it may be a descendant of the pre-existing Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Anatolian dish en tyritas plakountas (Byzantine Greek: εν τυρίτας πλακούντας) "cheesy placenta", itself a descendant of placenta, the classical baked layered dough and cheese dish of Ancient Roman cuisine.
The dish was a popular element of Ottoman cuisine, and may have been invented at the Ottoman court, though there are also indications it was made among Central Asian Turks; other versions may date to the Classical era of the eastern Mediterranean.
One alternative etymological origin that has been suggested is that the word comes from the Turkic root bur- 'to twist', but the sound harmony for this proposal would dictate the suffix "-aq", and Turkic languages in Arabic orthography invariably write börek with an ك not an ق, which weighs against this origin.
Even though borek is very popular in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, especially in North Africa and throughout the Balkans, it originated in Anatolia. Borek is also part of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish traditions (see bourekas). They have been enthusiastically adopted by the Ottoman Jewish communities, and have been described — along with boyos de pan and bulemas — as forming "the trio of preeminent Ottoman Jewish pastries".
The word "börek" is accompanied in Turkish can be modified by a descriptive word referring to the shape, ingredients of the pastry, or a specific region where it is typically prepared, as in the above kol böreği, su böreği, talaş böreği or Sarıyer böreği. There are many variations of börek in Turkish cuisine:
|Su böreği||boiled börek; lit. water börek||Sheets of dough are boiled briefly in large pans, then a mixture of feta cheese and greens, or other börek filling. The whole thing is brushed with butter and baked in a masonry oven.|||
|Sigara böreği||filo rolls, lit. 'cigarette börek'||Feta cheese, wiener, potato or other filling wrapped in yufka filo and deep-fried|||
|Paçanga böreği||Pachanga pastry||Yufka is filled with pastırma or kaşar, finely diced tomato and green peppers then rolled and fried in oil, may be eaten as a meze.|||
|Talaş böreği or Nemse böreği||lit. sawdust pastry||Small square börek mostly filled with lamb cubes and green peas, that has starchier yufka sheets, making it puffy and crispy.|||
|Kol böreği||lit. 'arm börek'||prepared in long rolls, either rounded or lined, and filled with either minced meat, feta cheese, spinach or potato and baked at a low temperature.|||
|Sarıyer böreği||A smaller and a little fattier version of the "Kol böreği", named after Sarıyer, a district of Istanbul.|||
|Gül böreği||rose börek, round börek, spiral börek||rolled into small spirals|
|Çiğ börek||Chebureki||Half-moon shaped börek, filled with a very thin layer of raw minced meat and onion filling and fried in oil, very popular in places with a thriving Tatar community, such as Eskişehir, Polatlı and Konya|||
|Töbörek||Another Tatar variety, similar to a çiğ börek, but baked instead of fried||[better source needed]|
|Laz böreği||Sweet börek filled with muhallebi (Ottoman-style milk pudding or custard) and served sprinkled with powdered sugar||[self-published source?]|
|Küt Böreği||Similar to Laz böreği, without the custard filling. It is also called sade (plain) börek and served with fine powdered sugar|||
In the former Yugoslavia, burek, also known as pita in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is an extremely common dish, made with yufka. This kind of pastry is also popular in Croatia, where it was imported by Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albanians. In Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia, burek is made from layers of dough, alternating with layers of other fillings in a circular baking pan and then topped with a last layer of dough. Traditionally it may be baked with no filling (prazan, meaning empty), with stewed minced meat and onions, or with cheese. Modern bakeries offer cheese and spinach, meat, apple, sour cherries, potato, mushroom, and other fillings. It is often eaten along with a plain yoghurt drink.
Ispanaklı Selanik Böreği is a spinach borek common in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Albania, this dish is called byrek. In Kosovo and few other regions byrek is also known as "pite". Byrek is traditionally made with several layers of dough that have been thinly rolled out by hand. The final form can be small, individual triangles, especially from street vendors called 'Byrektore' which sell byrek and other traditional pastries and drinks. It can also be made as one large byrek that is cut into smaller pieces. There are different regional variations of byrek. It can be served cold or hot.
The most common fillings include: cheese (especially gjizë, salted curd cheese), ground meat and onions (ragù style filling), spinach and eggs, milk and eggs with pre-baked dough layers, but it can also be made with tomato and onions, peppers and beans, potato or a sweet filling of pumpkin, nettles (known as byrek me hithra), or kidney beans (popular in winter).
Lakror is an Albanian pie dish from southern Albania. The pie is sometimes called a type of byrek pastry. Lakror is generally filled with a variety of greens or meats. Another related dish is Fli, typical from the North of Albania and Kosovo. It is made up of layers of a flour and water batter, cream and butter. Traditionally, it is baked on embers like lakror.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In 2012, Lonely Planet included the Bosnian burek in their "The World's Best Street Food" book. Eaten for any meal of the day, in Bosnia and Herzegovina the burek is a meat-filled pastry, traditionally rolled in a spiral and cut into sections for serving. The same spiral filled with cottage cheese is called sirnica, with spinach and cheese zeljanica, with potatoes krompiruša, and all of them are generically referred to as pita. Eggs are used as a binding agent when making sirnica and zeljanica.
The Bulgarian version of the pastry, locally called byurek (Cyrillic: бюрек), is typically regarded as a variation of banitsa (баница), a similar Bulgarian dish. Bulgarian byurek is a type of banitsa with sirene cheese, the difference being that byurek also has eggs added.
In Bulgarian, the word byurek has also come to be applied to other dishes similarly prepared with cheese and eggs, such as chushka byurek (чушка бюрек), a peeled and roasted pepper filled with cheese, and tikvichka byurek (тиквичка бюрек), blanched or uncooked bits of squash with eggs filling.
The regional cuisine of the Moldavian West bank of the Pruth still yields a type of dumpling-like food called burechiuşe (sometimes called burechiţe) which is described as dough in the shape of a ravioli-like square which is filled with mushrooms such as Boletus edulis, and sealed around its edges and then tossed and subsequently boiled in borscht like soups or chorbas. They are traditionally eaten in the last day of fasting at the time of the Christmas Eve. It is not clear if the burechiuşe derive their name from the Turco-Greek börek (which is a distinct possibility given the fact that Moldavia was ruled for many decades by dynasties of Greek Phanariotes and that encouraged Greek colonists to settle in the area), so at the receiving end of cultural and culinary influences coming from them, or it takes its name from that of the mushroom Boletus (burete in its Romanian language rhotacised version, and it meant "mushroom" as well as "sponge") by the pattern of the ravioli, which were named after the Italian name of the turnip with which they were once filled.
In Romania, the food falls under the name "plăcintă" and is most often made with cheese or cheese and spinach. In Dobruja, an eastern territory that used to be a Turkish province, one can find both the Turkish influence – plăcintă dobrogeană either filled with cheese or with minced meat and served with sheep yoghurt or the Tatar street food Suberek – a deep fried half Moon cheese filled dough.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2020)
In Serbian towns, Bosnian pastry dishes were imported by war refugees in the 1990s, and are usually called sarajevske pite or bosanske pite (Sarajevo pies or Bosnian pies). Similar dishes, although somewhat wider and with thinner dough layers, are called savijača or just "pita" in Serbia. These are usually homemade and not traditionally offered in bakeries.
The recipe for "round" burek was developed in the Serbian town of Niš. In 1498, it was introduced by a famous Turkish baker, Mehmed Oğlu from Istanbul.[better source needed] Eventually burek spread from the southeast (southern Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia) to the rest of Yugoslavia. Niš hosts an annual burek competition and festival called Buregdžijada. In 2005, a 100 kg (220 lbs) burek was made, with a diameter of 2 metres (≈6 ft) and it is considered to have been the world biggest burek ever made.[better source needed]
In Slovenia, burek is one of the most popular fast-food dishes, but at least one researcher found that it is viewed negatively by Slovenes due to their prejudices towards immigrants, especially those from other countries of former Yugoslavia. A publication of a diploma thesis on this at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana in 2010 stirred controversy regarding the appropriateness of the topic. The mentor of the student that had written the thesis described the topic as legitimate and burek as denoting primitive behaviour in Slovenia in spite of it being by his account "sophisticated food". He explained the controversy as a good example of the conclusions of the student. In 2008, an employee of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SRC SASA) had attained his PhD degree with a thesis on meta-burek at the University of Nova Gorica.
It's a starter served when receiving guests and especially during Ramadan evenings during the round meal of the holy month, usually accompanied by Algerian Chorba or Harira. Other forms include bourek packed with chicken and onions, shrimp and béchamel sauce, or a vegetarian alternative usually made of mashed potatoes and spinach.
Another Algerian variant of Bourek is called Brik or Brika, a speciality of Algeria's east, notably Annaba. It's a savory entree made from brik leaf, stuffed with mashed potatoes and a mixture of minced meat, onions, cheese and parsley. The whole is topped with a seasoned raw egg which cooks once the sheet of brik has been folded and soaked in boiling oil.
In Armenia, byorek (բյորեկ) or borek (բորեկ) consists of dough, or filo dough, folded into triangles and stuffed with cheese, spinach or ground beef, and the filling is typically spiced.
In Greece, boureki (μπουρέκι [buˈreki]) or bourekaki (μπουρεκάκι [bureˈkaki], the diminutive form of the word), and Cyprus poureki (πουρέκι, in the Greek dialects of the island) are small pastries made with phyllo dough or with pastry crust. Pastries in the börek family are also called pita (pie): tiropita, spanakopita, and so on. Galaktoboureko is a syrupy phyllo pastry filled with custard, common throughout Greece and Cyprus. In the Epirus, σκερ-μπουρέκ (derives from the Turkish şeker-börek, "sugar-borek") is a small rosewater-flavoured marzipan sweet. Bougatsa (Greek μπουγάτσα [buˈɣatsa]) is a Greek variation of a borek which consists of either semolina custard, cheese, or minced meat filling between layers of phyllo, and is said to originate in the city of Serres, an art of pastry brought with the immigrants from Constantinople and is most popular in Thessaloniki, in the Central Macedonia region of Northern Greece. The Greek city of Serres achieved the record for the largest puff pastry on 1 June 2008. It weighed 182.2 kg, was 20 metres long, and was made by more than 40 bakers. In Venetian Corfu, boureki was also called burriche, and filled with meat and leafy greens. The Pontian Greek piroski (πιροσκί) derives its name from borek too. It is almost identical in name and form to pirozhki (Russian: пирожки), which is of Slavic origin, and popular in Russia and further east.
Burekas (Hebrew: בורקס) have long been part of Sephardic cuisine were introduced to Israel by Sephardic Jews who settled there. Burekas can be filled with various fillings, although meat is less common in Israel because of the Jewish dietary restrictions. Most burekas in Israel are made with margarine-based doughs rather than butter-based doughs so that (at least the non-cheese–filled varieties) can be eaten along with either milk meals or meat meals in accordance with the kosher prohibition against mixing milk and meat at the same meal. The most popular fillings are salty cheese, spinach, eggplant, and mashed potato, with other fillings including mushrooms, sweet potato, chickpeas, olives, mallows, swiss chard, and pizza flavor.
In Saudi Arabia, Burēk (Arabic: بُريك, Hejazi pronunciation: [bʊˈre̞ːk]), is usually made in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, it mostly resembles the Bosnian rolled burek but can also come in other variants, and it is stuffed with minced meat or with salty cheese and dill. It's usually served during the month of Ramadan, same goes to samosas.
In Tunisia, there is a variant known as the brik (// BREEK; بريك) that consists of thin crepe-like pastry around a filling and is commonly deep fried. The best-known is the egg brik, a whole egg in a triangular pastry pocket with chopped onion, tuna, harissa and parsley. The Tunisian brik is also very popular in Israel, due to the large Tunisian Jewish population there. It is often filled with a raw egg and herbs or tuna, harissa, and olives, and it is sometimes served in a pita. This is also known as a boreeka.
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