Slovenia is a nation of horse lovers, and unlike hippophiles in places like the UK or North America, the locals here enjoy them both saddled and on their plates. Horses young and old are a traditional and apparently celebrated food in Slovenia, perhaps even more so than other pony-purveying European countries like Switzerland (where I once saw Canadian horse meat for sale), the Netherlands, or Germany. Horses have, of course, historically been considered a readily-available source of protein for frugal agricultural communities, fair enough. But their meat is also fantastically tender and lower in fat than their barnyard neighbours. So what’s not to celebrate? Ever since my first taste of the beast at a kaiten-zushi restaurant in Japan (I thought it was raw beef), I’ve been a huge fan myself, greedily seeking it out in the few countries I’ve been where they are inclined to dine on equines. Slovenia would of course be no different, so with great excitement we sought out Ljubljana’s renowned equine fast food joint: Hot’Horse.
Sure, horse meat in fast food is nothing new. But if you know about it, acknowledge it, and even take pride in it–oh, the wonderful things you can do. There are more than a few horse meat burgers lurking around Ljubljana, hidden alongside kebabs and beef burgers, but Hot’Horse has taken things to a completely different level. Their touch-screen ordering kiosk looks like it’s straight outta Tokyo, giving diners the opportunity to construct their own ultimate horse burger dining experience by choosing their ideal combination of mains and sides, white or wheat bun, and adding extra sauces (including the amazing sauce AJVAR)–all without even looking at another human being. Pay by cash or card, and once the order is printed all you have to do is hand it over to the friendly dude behind the counter and wait. For probably less than three minutes. And then, THE HORSE IS YOURS.
We visited the location next to/in Tivoli Park, which, at 11pm on a Saturday night, could have just been renamed “Rapey Park”. But maybe that’s just me–Mook was more worried about snakes than rapists. At any rate, after our initial shock and awe at the ordering machine, he settled on the traditional horse burger topped with some veg, a tabasco sauce, and ajvar. I shamefully went for the foal/colt burger, because it looked so freaking good in the picture. And it was, oh, it was. While the horse burger patties were unfortunately pre-made and sat in their own watery juices, the foal steak was fresh. I watched with wonder as the Hot’Horse dude slung a giant, firm piece of red steak onto the grill and sautéed it with mustard and onions. Pile that on to the biggest bun you’ve ever wrapped your mitts around, together with jalapenos and ajvar and HOLY SHIT, you have a winner.
To all the “adventurous” eaters out there who, for whatever reason, find themselves in Ljubliana, Slovenia, I would definitely recommend the trek to Hot’Horse (Hot Horse? Hot-Horse?). The twinges of guilt you feel whenever you spot a spry little foal kicking up his hooves in the sunshine on a rolling green hillside will disappear over time. But the taste of your very first horse burger will stick with you forever.