Friday, March 8, 2013

Gluten-Free Shopping in Serbia: Go Ahead, YOU Read the Labels!

Task #1:  To figure out what there is for a Celiac to eat here.

For the last two weeks I have been scoping out every grocery store in Belgrade I can find: Maxi, Tempo, Idea, Maki, Vero, and Mercator.  It was, to say the least, depressing.  Okay, I could find corn pasta (which I actually like), polenta, and some cookies, but that was about it.  Better than nothing, I thought.  I do have the very appreciated military postal service with direct access to Amazon, but I really wanted to find something local.  I'm not the best plan-aheader.  Trying to estimate how much rice flour I would need in a month- well, first of all, I don't even know what I can make with it yet.  And to wait a month for it to arrive?  Bummer.  That's not to say that there is not plenty out there that is naturally gluten-free, fruits and vegetables galore, meat and fish to boot.  
Perhaps there are more products in the grocery stores here that are gluten-free.  The problem is is that there are no labeling laws in Eastern Europe, or none that I know of.  Some of the imported goods do have labels, but unless the exporting country is in the EU, there is no way of knowing what exactly the label entails.  Googling, "gluten-free labeling Serbia (or Eastern Europe, for that matter)" brings up next to nothing.  Oh, there was one sight that said labeling in Eastern Europe could be "tricky."  Understatement of the year, unless you speak, say, Ukrainian and want to make that international call to the Ukrainian cracker maker to see if those corn chips were made in a gluten-free facility.  yeh, right.

Then, on a quick birthday party cookie run to Mercator I stumbled across this:
And why didn't I see this before?
Two aisles marked "Bez Glutena (Without Gluten)." I'm standing in the middle of the aisle with tears streaming down my face.  I am so grateful.  I love you, Mercator.  The aisles are loaded with prepared foods, grains, and flours all labeled in Serbian.  Although I speak Serbian pretty well, buckwheat, amaranth, and garbanzo bean are not in my lexicon.  And no, I have yet to buy one of those handy google-friendly phones.  This might be the impetus to get one.  I just learned how to blog, for goodness sake.  So, I wiped my eyes, bought some of the Rocky Rice bars (thank you, English) and scurried home to Google translate all of the ingredients suggested by Gluten-Free Cooking For Dummies (thank you, Carol!) for me to have in my pantry.  The next chance I got, I hightailed it back to Mercator, my new grocery store of choice, and with my vocabulary list in hand, I bought all the bootie I could get and then some.  There were several products and variations of products that were not on my list.  What the hell!  I decided to buy 'em and see what I had when I got home.  My surprise items? Poso (millet) flour, oljušteno (peeled) buckwheat, and proprženo poso (fried millet).  Alrighty, then!  I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I was EXCITED!

My Gluten-Free Jackpot!
I bought a new sifter (no getting wheat flour out of my old one), pasta spoon, and whisker (ditto).  I also bought a spiffy oven mitt, realizing last week, when I took my family's glutenized meatloaf out of the oven, just how often we stick our mitts in the food.  Good grief.

Unfortunately, Mercator does not carry the last three remaining ingredients in my cookbook's bread flour recipe:  Tapioca flour, garbanzo bean flour (I found easy how-to's on the internet) or xanthun gum (the stuff that holds gluten-free bread together).  The last one, I'm going to first scour the health food stores here and then, probably order it on Amazon.

I'm going to become a regular non-gluten flour- making guru.  What's next?  A mortar and pestle? Bring it on!  I'm a bread-baking mama!

So, I'm off to the kitchen to bake bread.   Have I ever even made regular bread?  Uh, no.  How hard can it be?
"Skrob."  I love that word.  "Starch" isn't as catchy.

(to be continued)


  1. I was so delighted to run across your post while trying to figure out what to do for lunch and simultaneously kicking myself for not planning ahead. :) Mercator is fantastic for gf stuff, and the Maxi Exclusive near Sveti Sava is a convenient city center option. If you find any restaurants other than Novak's or Nachos with good gluten-free options, I'd be excited to hear about them.

    1. Thank you! I didn't know about Nachos, but will now have to check it out! I am so new to this that I've only been out twice and once was to Novak's. The first time was to our Banovo Brdo neighborhood restaurant, Srbska Kuca, about the Maki grocer where Beogradskog Bataljona makes a T at the top of the hill. We are regulars there, but this was the first time there since the diagnosis. We explained the situation and they were quite accomodating. I had the roasted lamb the serve with potatoes and a srbska salata with no consequences! It was absolutely delicious! I was so relieved. They suggested the traditional corn muffins, which are not made with wheat flour, but I'm not certain the corn flour is uncontaminated here. Would you happen to know? Thanks so much for your comment! Prijatno!


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