Meat with a side of geopolitics in Belgrade

Updated February 09, 2019


BELGRADE: A cook prepares the national dish of Palau at Korcagin restaurant.—AFP
BELGRADE: A cook prepares the national dish of Palau at Korcagin restaurant.—AFP

MADAGASCAR meatloaf, Laotian pork neck, Lesotho chicken kebab — politics, not palate sets the menu at Korcagin, a Serbian restaurant that serves food only from countries that don’t recognise Kosovo. One Sunday families filled the Belgrade tavern for a meal not normally associated with the Balkan state’s meat-heavy cuisine: black tiger prawns drizzled with a zesty orange sauce. It was billed as the national dish of Palau, a little-known archipelago in the Pacific Ocean that last month became the latest country to revoke recognition of Kosovo, a former Serbian province. “Now everyone in Serbia knows Palau,” said Vojin Cucic, the 29-year-old owner of Korcagin, which every Sunday serves a specialty from a country that rejects Kosovo’s statehood.

Two decades after the ethnic Albanian-majority province broke away from Serbia in a guerrilla war, the neighbours are still locked in a heated recognition battle. Kosovo has been recognised by more than 100 countries since its 2008 independence declaration. But that’s only slightly more than half of the UN’s 193 member states, with the other camp including powerful nations like Russia and China. Belgrade is also actively fighting to unravel Pristina’s gains, with Serbia’s foreign minister regularly trumpeting the latest countries to reverse ties. Never mind that many of them are places most would struggle to find on a map — like the Union of the Comoros, Suriname and most recently Palau. Big or small, they share a fan base at Korcagin, whose walls are plastered with Yugoslavia-era photos, flags and other memorabilia from a time when Serbia and Kosovo were part of one country.

So far, the cooks have prepared more than 70 foreign dishes, giving preference to the countries that have rescinded their recognition. Cucic, who inherited the restaurant from his father, says he is motivated by patriotism. “If the US would withdraw recognition, we would have three days of free drinks,” he says with a smile. Pristina insists it is recognised by 116 nations. “This is nothing but Serbian propaganda,” said Jetlir Zyberaj, an adviser to Kosovo’s foreign minister.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2019