Found in: Words of Turkish origin
Borek is a type of pie popular throughout the former Ottoman Empire. They are made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo or yufka, and are filled with salty cheese (often feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables. Borek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. The top of the borek is often sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Origin and name
Borek originated in Turkish cuisine (cf. Baklava) and is one of its most significant and, in fact, ancient elements, having been developed by the Turks of Central Asia before their westward migration to Anatolia . Borek in Turkish refers to any dish made with "yufka", the Turkish word for phyllo pastry. Most of the time, the word "borek" is accompanied by a descriptive word referring to the shape, ingredients, technique for cooking or a specific region where it is typically prepared, for example, kol boregi, su boregi, tala boregi, Tatar boregi or Sariyer boregi.
Other languages, which have borrowed the word, use it in a specific and narrow sense, where it refers only to dishes prepared with yufka/phyllo. In Turkish, the word has a wider range of meanings, however, and can refer to puff pastry, known as nemse boregi in Turkish, and other types where the dough is processed somewhat differently from the standard yufka recipe. Some examples are su boregi (water borek), where the sheets are boiled briefly before layering, and saray boregi (palace borek), where butter is rolled between the sheets.
Borek is the name used for pastries made with phyllo dough. Su boregi ("water borek") is the most common type. Layers of dough are boiled in large pans, then a mixture of cheese, parsley and oil is scattered between the layers. Sigara boregi is often filled with feta cheese, potato, parsley and sometimes with minced meat or sausage. A variety of vegetables, herbs and spices are used in boreks such as spinach, nettle, leek, potato, eggplant, courgette, ground black pepper.
''Kut boregi' is a fillingless borek, often served with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.
In Armenia, Boeregs are stuffed with cheese. They are also stuffed with other substances such as spinach or ground beef, and the filling is typically spiced.
Burek (former Yugoslavia)
Across the territories of former Yugoslavia, burek is not used in a hyperonymous sense , as in Turkey. Burek is regularly available at most bakeries, and usually eaten as "fast food". It is often consumed with yoghurt. Apart from being sold at bakeries, burek is sold in specialized stores selling burek (or pitas) and yogurt exclusively (Buregdzinica).
Serbian and Macedonian (round) burek
In Serbia and Macedonia, burek is made from layers of thick dough, alternating with layers of other fillings in a circular baking pan and topped with a layer of dough. Traditional fillings are stewed ground meat, cheese, apple, sour cherry, mushrooms, and a modern variant, "pizza" burek. Prazan burek is also made.
Serbian burek became popular in Croatia and in Slovenia in the 2nd half of the 20th century. The first burek in Zagreb was made by famous Albanian bakers near the main railway station (Kolodvor) after World War II.
===Bosnian (rolled) burek===
In Bosnia and Herzegovina the word burek refers only to the meat-filled pastry dish. Thin dough layers are stuffed and then rolled and cut into spirals (resembling an American cinnamon bun). The same dish with cottage cheese is called sirnica, one with spinach and cheese zeljanica, one with potatoes krompirusa, and all of them are generically referred to as pita (trans. pie).
This kind of dough dish is also popular in Croatia, where it was imported by Bosnian Croats, and is usually called rolani burek (rolled burek).
In Serbian towns Bosnian pastry dishes were imported by war refugees in the 1990s, and are usually called sarajevske pite or bosanske pite (Sarajevo/Bosnian pies). Similar dishes, although somewhat wider and with thinner dough layers are called savijaca or just "pita" in Serbia. However, these are usually homemade and not traditionally offered in bakeries.
In Bosnia, burek only refers to one special pastry dish filled with meat. In Serbia and Croatia, one always specifies the type of stuffing .
Byrek or Lakror (Albania)
In Albania, this dish is called Byrek or sometimes Lakror and it contains mainly spinach but sometimes also meat or cheese. Albanian byrek may also contain pumpkin (which is sweet); it is also often spelled "burek", especially among Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as Albanian-American emigrants.
Albanian byrek are typically savoury, not sweet, and are often served as the main dish of a meal.
BYUREK, Byurek (Bulgaria)
The Bulgarian version of the pastry, locally called byurek , is typically regarded as a variation of banitsa (BANITSA), a similar Bulgarian dish. Bulgarian byurek is a type of banitsa with cheese (sirene), with 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 (CHUSHKA BYUREK), a peeled and roasted pepper filled with cheese, and tikvichka byurek (TIKVICHKA BYUREK), blanched or uncooked bits of squash with a cheese and eggs filling.
The Tatarn version, called "cheburek" is made from unleavened dough filled with ground lamb, onions and spices, fried in oil. It is a common street food in Tatarstan and other former ex-USSR countries like Ukraine and Georgia. Cheburek is the Russian pronunciation of the Crimean Tatar "ciborek", which means "delicious burek".
It is also wildly popular in Turkey where it is called "cigborek" [chiboreque]
Mpoyreki, Boureki, or Mpoyrekaki, Bourekaki (Greece)
In Greece, boureki (mpoyreki [bur'eki]) or bourekaki , are small pastries made with phyllo dough or with pastry crust. A special type of boureki exists in the local cuisine of Crete and especially in the area of Chania. It is made with sliced zucchini, sliced potatoes, mizithra or feta cheese and spearmint. The mixture can be covered by a thick layer of traditional phyllo (pastry crust), but it is quite common to be left plain as well.
Galaktoboureko is a syrupy phyllo-pastry filled with custard, common throughout Greece. In the Epirus, sker-mpoyrek is a small rosewater-flavored marzipan sweet.
Bourekas are made out of puff pastry filled with various fillings. Among the most popular fillings are cheese, mashed potato, spinach, eggplant, pizza-flavor, and mushrooms. The name Bourekas is derived from the Ladino language, spoken in the past by Jewish communities in the Mediterranean area.
Israeli bourekas come in several shapes, which are indicative of their fillings.Cheese bourekas come in right-angled and isosceles triangles, and have two different sizes. Potato-filled bourekas come in a box shape. Bourekas with a pizza filling resemble a concentric tower, while spinach filled bourekas resemble a pastry knot. There are also the so-called "Turkish bourekas" which form rounded equilateral triangles, and are filled with various fillings, whose type can usually be determined by an additional element on the outside.
Bourekas come in small, "snack" size, often available in self-service bakeries, and larger size, approximately 2 inches by 4 inches. The larger ones can serve as a snack or a meal, and can be sliced open, and stuffed with hard-boiled egg, pickles and Skhug, a spicy Yemenite paste.
Brik is a Tunisian burek, often fried; its best-known variant is composed of a whole egg in a triangular pastry pocket with chopped onion and parsley.
Burek as a cultural reference
In urban areas of the former SFR Yugoslavia, a common satrovacki variety of burek is called rekbu.
There is also a musical album by the Bosnian pop singer Dino Merlin with this name.
Slovenian hip-hop artist Ali En (now named Dalaj Egol) recorded a song named "Burek" which was a major hit in Slovenia.
Macedonian comedians, known under the name K-15, in their musical group called Duo-Trio, recorded a song called "Burek", and it was all about the dish.
The name of the biggest Internet forum in Serbia is Burek Forum.
Anri Sala, an Albanian video artist, has a work entitled Byrek, featuring an old Albanian woman in Brussels making byreks, mostly in close-ups of her hands. His grandmother had sent him a letter with her recipe but it was far too difficult for him to make himself, so he had to track down someone who could make them.
To this day in Turkey, one may hear an expression often used by the poor, and even by the middle class, saying, "I am not rich enough to eat baklava and burek every day."
A certain genre of Israeli film is known as the "Bourekas Films". The name echoes the relationship of Spaghetti Westerns to Hollywood Westerns, implying the same relationship of the Israeli cinema of the 60's and the 70's to the more artistic films produced in Europe at the time. Bourekas Films are broad comedies which typically deal with a clash of cultures, often between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi communities. Much of the humor in these films was based on exaggerated accents, stereotypical depictions of both cultures, and coarse slapstick.
This article contains information from Frosina.org and it is used with permission.