By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Twenty years ago the burek – a popular Bosnian crisp layered pastry filled with piping-hot ricotta cheese, beef and cheese or spinach and cheese – landed at Dandenong Market.
Few had heard of or had sampled the fare when husband-and-wife Nevruz and Mevlida opened Dandy Burek in a small caravan.
The couple had arrived in Australia with little more than a suitcase in 1998, having spent six years in a refugee camp due to the Bosnian wars.
Doubters at the time said the burek wouldn’t appeal to the masses. They would now have to eat their words.
These days, Dandy Burek is iconic, operating out of a larger van and serving burek, cevapi and kranskies to a regular line of loyal customers including New Zealanders, Europeans or Asians.
It also brings together diners of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian backgrounds.
One from Queensland often picks up two frozen bureks to take home each week.
The couple’s children, who were born in a refugee camp, are running a coffee van Froth and a burger/kransky eatery Grilled at the market.
Nevruz, a former fruiterer in Bosnia, is the well-known face at the front of Dandy Burek, while Mevlida handmakes the food behind the scenes.
According to their daughter Elvira, the bureks require two days of patient preparation. The key to making the thin, crunchy layers of pastry remains a closely-guarded family secret.
“Only three know the recipe – my mother, my sister and myself,” Elvira says. “It’s made with love.”
Served hot and oozing with dense high-quality fillings, they certainly warm the belly during a winter’s breakfast or lunch.
Their light pastry casings – shaped from dainty fingers to the size of a family pizza – give way in a satisfying crunch.
After 20 years, Dandenong Market feels like home for the family.
“Everyone helps out everyone,” Elvira says.
“It’s not like competition. Everyone has gone through hard times before – I love it here.”