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Friday, February 25, 2011

Balkan Oven Burek Bakery Cafe, Rockdale

Rockdale is worth exploring on foot
, a fascinating blend of cultures that sprawls across both sides of the Princes Highway. You'll find Halal butchers next to Asian grocery stores, and restaurants that specialise in Chinese, Thai, Bangladeshi, Greek and Himalayan cuisine. There's a giant used furniture shop on the corner, a supermarket selling Pakistani groceries in bulk, and Lebanese bakeries fragrant with oregano and thyme from za'atar-topped manoosh pizzas.

A significant local Macedonian community means you'll stumble upon plenty of burek too: flaky pastries sold in cafes for breakfast, lunch or a leisurely snack. There are several in the area but I was drawn to Balkan Oven Burek as soon as I saw all the old men in shirts and cardigans sitting out the front. The men here are in no hurry, nursing coffee and cigarettes as they catch up on all the news in a constant stream of Macedonian and Croatian chatter.

Balkan Oven Burek

A bakery cafe serving Macedonian burek and breads.

There’s always a queue for takeaway, but it’s much more fun to eat in, joining the hordes of locals sitting at the shaded café tables on this cosy pedestrian strip.

Spinach and cheese burek

Burek is the specialty here: flaky baked pies made with multiple layers of paper-thin pastry. The burek are baked all day, tipped out piping hot from their tins and sold as family-sized whole pies ($18) or cut into quarters ($5).

The pastry layers progress from crisp and golden shards to soft waves before hitting a filling of either beef mince, cheese, or cheese and spinach. The cheese is a housemade mixture of Bulgarian and Australian fetta combined with ricotta cheese.

Cheese burek

Meat burek with buttermilk

You can jump-start your system with a cup of Macedonian coffee, boiled in a long-handled copper pot directly over flame, but the traditional drink to have with burek is buttermilk, served cold by the glass.

Kifli so sirenje

The crescent-shaped bread rolls on the counter top are kifli so sirenje, a soft yeast roll filled with a crumble of brined cheese that makes a perfect takeaway snack.

For dessert, move onto strudli so jabolko, or apple strudel: squat pastry rolls of cinnamon-spiced apples and sultanas, dusted with icing sugar and served with cream.

Strudli so jabolko
apple strudel

Macedonian creaming soda

Slatki or traditional sweets [clockwise from bottom left]:
Chocolate fig wafer; fruit slice; date almond roll; tulumbi and coconut roll
- The chocolate fig wafer was my favourite by far

Pogacha traditional wedding bread
- My visit was anonymous but my camera was enough to grant me access into the kitchen. "You want a nice picture? Come look! Special bread for wedding!"

Pogacha traditional wedding bread
- Two birds represent the bride and groom

Burek baking in the oven
- Only six trays fit in the oven, so the oven works non-stop to keep up with demand

Freshly baked burek

Macedonian coffee is brewed by hand over a gas flame

Macedonian coffee
- Strong but with minimal bitterness, boasting a deep richness and pleasing finish

View Larger Map
Balkan Oven Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Balkan Oven Burek Bakery Café
Shop 2, 1-3 King Street, Rockdale, Sydney
Tel: (02) 9567 1102

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 6am-5pm
Sunday 6am-3pm

This article appears in the March 2011 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This!

More Time Out Sydney reviews:
ATL Marantha, Kensington (Indonesian fried chicken with edible bones)
Durban Dish, Baulkham Hills (South African bunny chow)
Hijazi's Falafel, Arncliffe (Lebanese breakfast)
Island Dreams Cafe, Lakemba (Christmas Islands cuisine)
La Paula, Fairfield (Chilean empanadas, lomitos and sweets)
Sea Sweet, Parramatta (Lebanese sweet kashta cheese burger)
Sizzling Fillo, Lidcombe (Filipino pork hock crackling)
Tehran, Granville (Persian cuisine)
Tuong Lai, Cabramatta (Vietnamese sugar cane prawns)
27 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/25/2011 02:01:00 am


  • At 2/25/2011 4:33 am, Anonymous foodie and the chef said…

    This is terrible: I've never been to Rockdale. The Macedonian food looks out-of-this-world, will definitely be making a trip !

  • At 2/25/2011 6:58 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    I love Rockdale, very underrated.

  • At 2/25/2011 7:17 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Rockdale is one of those places that make this city fantastic place. You get off at the train station and you're virtually in another country. Burek is something I grew up eating, a unique sweet or savoury pastry from this part of Eastern Europe. The name of the wedding bread translates to underpants!

  • At 2/25/2011 8:45 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not a light meal but a tasty one, I bet.

  • At 2/25/2011 9:02 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    That coffee looks intense. I've actually passed this and thought it looked interesting - cheese and pastry - yes please!

  • At 2/25/2011 9:28 am, Anonymous Erin@TheFoodMentalist said…

    OMG!!!I have spent a lot of time in this part of Sydney but had no idea about this place! I think a visit is on the cards!

  • At 2/25/2011 9:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what a great find! and the pastriesssss yum!

  • At 2/25/2011 9:54 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    the cheese! it oozes!

  • At 2/25/2011 10:05 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    My friend always takes me here when she's craving real burek...I love this place. Rockdale is def a smorgasboard of foodie delights!

  • At 2/25/2011 10:31 am, Anonymous Nobal Glomad said…

    Love the coffee pour in action shot... nice work.

  • At 2/25/2011 10:32 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very interesting cafe. Love the tools for the coffee.

  • At 2/25/2011 10:33 am, Anonymous Melissa said…

    the burek looks so flaky and crispy! yum!

  • At 2/25/2011 10:54 am, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Omgosh! Burek! I havn't had this since I left my job in Rockdale years and years ago! Nor have I been back to Rockdale since. There was a small bakery a few doors up from the florist I worked at on the Princess Hwy that we always used to go buy burek from, I think it was partial to my weight gain while I worked there!

  • At 2/25/2011 11:37 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I used to be around Rockdale a lot as a kid, however my mother wouldn't take me to such "exotic" places due to her somewhat limited sense of adventure when it comes to food. Shame, as I have now come to love burek! Or anything with flaky pastry for that mater =p

  • At 2/25/2011 12:18 pm, Anonymous David said…

    Coming from a Balkan background, I can't get enough of burek. Also Balkan Oven is a great choice, much better than Pellas "Best Burek in the World" claim. Funny you mention the old men sitting around outside. Macos, Cros and Serbs, they all talk to each other, but none of them trust each other :D
    You should also try the Cevapi place near the entrance to the station. It is excellent Spicciatevi Cafe

  • At 2/25/2011 1:27 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I love how you captured the coffee drips in the first photo! My camera would cry if I asked it to do that ;)

    Love the look of the traditional sweets... but you'd have guessed that, for sure ;)

  • At 2/25/2011 1:32 pm, Anonymous Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    Meat and Pastry - there is no better combo!
    Great find Helen, my favorite burek place was a little Serbian joint in Newtown which has now closed down.

  • At 2/25/2011 3:28 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    I've only ever driven through Rockdale, and I've never had Burek which is very remiss of me. AND I've never drunk buttermilk, only ever had it "in" food like pancakes. Yes, I've been living under a rock. Looks like a trip to Rockdale is in order.

  • At 2/25/2011 9:08 pm, Blogger thang @ noodlies said…

    loving that creamy soda!
    interesting mix of desserts.
    and that coffee looks deadly!

  • At 2/25/2011 10:28 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    that first photo is pretty cool! hmm macedonian coffee...so exotic!
    drink buttermilk?! haha isnt that like milk with some acid? hehe

  • At 2/25/2011 11:48 pm, Anonymous Jenny @ Musings and Morsels said…

    Well well well, does it look like my prayers have been answered. For so long have I been prancing about trying to look for a Macedonian/Croatian/Serbian eatery; I'm always on the search to try new cuisines and there just doesn't seem to be enough of Balkan around. So thanks for the lovely post; any Balkan restaurants you'd recommend?

  • At 2/26/2011 5:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cheese, meat and a good amount of carb load! Yuummm that bread sure looks so fluffy and soft!

  • At 2/27/2011 10:06 am, Blogger Jen said…

    I always discover something new that I haven't tried on your blog! The burek looks divine!

  • At 2/27/2011 9:44 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Sigh, love discovering (or seeing you discover) wonderful places like this!

  • At 3/01/2011 9:44 am, Blogger susan said…

    Cheese and pastry equals deliciousness! I would love to have a local place like this around, I would eat it every day.

  • At 3/01/2011 12:07 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    wow that wedding bread looks so pretty!!

  • At 1/29/2012 12:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    All looks Greek to me.. looks good tho, worth a try.


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