Croatian cuisine cannot be defined in just one sentence, or be showcased in just one town. Although Croatia may be considered small in size, it stretches across three climatic regions; Alpine, Continental, and Mediterranean where culinary traditions have partly been shaped by its previous conquerors such as the Italian, French, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottomans. On your culinary discovery through Croatia, your palate will be met by light seafood fare to spicy meat stews, Croatia’s own pasta, and ‘bizarre’ bites too! Let’s have a taste of Croatia with 10 must-try dishes and where to try them. Dobar tek! Bon Appetit!
Štrukli – Hotel Esplanade, Zagreb
This humble cheese and cream pastry is the capital’s signature bite and even proclaimed a cultural icon by the Ministry of Culture. The štrukliis a Zagorje specialty and its inspiration probably comes from the Austrian strudel and Turkish borek although this dish is now distinctly Croatian. The luxurious Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb is famed for knocking out the best in town.
Fiš Paprikaš – Restaurant Komoran, Nature Park Kopački rit
Fiš Paprikaš (Credits: Wikimedia)
Things can get hot and spicy in Continental Croatia, particularly in Baranja in Slavonia, the home of Fiš Paprikaš. This spicy fish paprika stew is made in a cast-iron kettle over wood fire with several fresh-water fish such as carp, catfish, pike or starlet. The best place to flavor this delicious stew is in Restaurant Komoran as you take in the lush scenery of the Nature Park Kopački rit.
Istrian Fuži with Truffle – Zigante Restaurant, Istria
The Istrian peninsula is famed for its culinary traditions and the forests of Motovun are known for having one of the highest concentrations of truffles in the world, both white and black so a lot of Istrian dishes are sprinkled with this luxurious ingredient without spare. It is most commonly combined with fuži, the peninsula’s very own homemade pasta, or another local pasta, pljukanci. Best head to the village of Livade and explore the truffle menu at Zigante Restaurant.
Gregada – Meneghello Restaurant, Palmižana
Croatia’s loved gregada fish stew comes from the island of Hvar; a true Adriatic concoction featuring various whitefish, potatoes, white wine, olive oil and garlic, cooked slowly for hours in a pot which should only be shaken, not stirred. Hvar has its very own backyard, the serene Pakleni archipelago, so take a boat to the magnificent Palmižana bay where the Meneghello family will cook you up a gregada to remember, as you take in the island vistas and azure waters.
Vitalac– Konoba Kopačina, Brač Island
Vitalac at Konoba Kopacina
Brač is famed for their lamb that has not yet tasted grass, but only their mother’s milk that has grazed off salty open pastures with sage, fennel and other aromatic herbs. As the lengthily procedure of firing a lamb on the spit begins, vitalac is prepared to nibble on as you wait. Vitalac is an ancient dish of lamb’s offal fired on a spit, then wrapped in caul to be further grilled. It fall into your ‘bizarre’ category but give it a try and you will get a bacon-crispy texture revealing a tender stuffing. Konoba Kopačina in the island’s hillside town of Donji Humac is the best place to try the rare Vitalac.
Fritula – Riva, Split
Time for dessert! Fritula is a Dalmatian fried sweet dumpling often flavored with rum and raisins and mostly consumed during the cold winter months although kids beg for them all year. Fritule are not commonly found in restaurants but often prepared at street stalls, and there is a great one on Split’s popular Riva seafront promenade.
Peka – Konoba Antunović, Pelješac Peninsula
Cooking using the ancient Peka method knocks out Croatia’s divinely tender and most loved dish by the same name. Comfort food at its best, Peka combines lamb, veal, octopus, or chicken and vegetables with fresh herbs and a generous drizzle of olive oil, which is then closed with bell-like lid, and covered in hot coals. Most local taverns have peka on their menu but one of the best we have come across in all-organic, all-homemade Konoba Antunović in the town of Kuna on the Pelješac Peninsula. Order in advance and you’ll be invited into a family cellar where you dine under drying prosciuttos.
Pašticada – Konoba Stare Grede, Split
Pašticada. Image Source
Dalmatia’s favorite beef stew is a compulsory dish in every home and at every local feast and wedding, and for good reason. The mouthwatering thick sweet sauce is a result of several days of marinating in vinegar, lemon and rosemary for a few days and is slow-cooked with carrots, red wine, cloves, nutmeg and prosciutto (pršut). If you want to escape the tourist crowd, head to Konoba Stare Grede, a local hangout where Pašticada is a regular order for lunch.
Neretvanski Brodet, Restaurant Đuđa & Mate, Vid
Perhaps another inclusion on your bizarre food list, an eel and frog stew in paprika broth is worth a try. This spiced fabrication of Neretva river goodness is usually served with polenta to soak of the juices. Come to Vid and discover and the ancient Roman settlement of Narona before delving into an eel and frog pot at Restaurant Đuđa & Mate along the river.
Buzara – Restaurant Fešta, Žut Island
Buzara. Image Source: TripAdvisor
Buzara is an easy way of preparing crustaceans by tossing them in a mixture of olive oil, parsley, breadcrumbs, garlic and white wine on a sizzling pan. This is the basic version but you can also opt for the red variation with tomato sauce. This fingerlickin’ dish is available in most seaside restaurants in Croatia but if you are looking for a little luxe and magical scenery combined, try Restaurant Fešta on Žut Island in the barren Kornati archipelago.