Croatian cuisine is a cuisine of regions, reflecting Croatian geography, history and culture.Croatia 's turbulent history,¬† caused by its unique geopolitical position, is also evident in its dishes, which combine different eras: the ancient Greeks grew grapes on the islands of Vis and Hvar;the Hungarians brought goulash and paprikash (meat stew), the Turks left sarma (stuffed sauerkraut rolls), stuffed green peppers and rolled dough, while the Italians left their trace in various kinds of pasta.
Many are confused by Istrian cuisine: it differs in the coastal regions, where it is based on fish, from that of the heart of the peninsula.Soft, pink Istrian prosciutto, olives, and shellfish,¬† particularly mussels from the Lim Channel, are greatly appreciated.Another favourite is posutice , a type of pasta served with various side dishes, salted pilchards, for example,¬† or chicken, or venison stew.Istrian tr ffles are well‚Äďknown and are prepared in a number of ways;other specialties include fried eggs with asparagus or black bryony, maneŇ°tra , a thick soup of corn, fennel, chickpeas and barley porridge, and winter maneŇ°tra with beans and cabbage, called jota .Istrian turkeys are highly appreciated today.Istrian wines, such as Malvazija,¬† Teran, Merlot and Borgonja, are excellent.The famous Istrian supa , or soup, is made with wine.
The cuisine of Istria and Kvarner regions represents a special Croatian cuisine, a mixture of the inland and coastal cuisine. These regions are rich in excellent fish and seafood, most valuable among them being north-Adriatic scampi (prawns), calamari and shellfish from the Limski Kanal Fjord. Many traditional wine cellars offer, after having fish soup, fish stew, boiled prawns, black and white seafood risotto as well as other dishes typical of the central part of the peninsula the traditional wine soup, ragout (jota) similar to the Italian minestrone (manistra, meneŇ°tra, menestra), but also pasta and risotto dishes with famous truffles, self-grown precious mushroom species, "dug out" of the ground by specially trained dogs and pigs, which have the reputation of an aphrodisiac. Excellent Istrian wines include: Malmsy of Buje, Cabernet of Poreńć, Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Terrano of Buzet, ŇĹlahtina of Vrbnik, and sparkling wines Bakarska Vodica etc. There are many fine restaurants in Istria, especially on the Opatija, Crikvenica, Rovinj and Poreńć littorals, in the interior and on the islands.
Istria ‚Äď a place to experience
After a breakfast of coffee and still-warm pastries, follow any quiet inland road (no frenetic motorways here) and chance upon a quaint church festooned with frescoes. Or simply stop at the roadside, awe-struck, at the sheer natural beauty of the fertile valleys, the rich dark orange-coloured earth, the oceans of olives, figs, almonds and grapes, the waterfalls, the steep pine-clad sides of so many fiords.
For lunch a shady roadside tavern serving the crisp white, and temptingly quaffable, Malvasia wine - as good as anything from France or Italy - an excellent liquid accompaniment to the simplest tastiest pasta, fish or roasted pork dishes. One of these dishes will probably be flavoured liberally with white or black truffles.
An afternoon stroll may lead you to chance upon a village celebration, the locals dancing the ancient balun dance in the main square with swirling costumes and music from age-old instruments - and always a genuine welcome.
The twilight evening road brings you to fairytale coastal towns such as incredibly picturesque Rovinj or Vrsar, complete with their own island entourages. Time for aimless unhurried wanderings around quaint stalls and shops. An alfresco dinner set next to a vast panorama of calm sea or maybe a bustling square with squadrons of swallows, performing impossible aerobatics, wheeling and chirruping overhead. Afterwards, join the locals in a slow amble, in the cool scented air, over the characteristically shiny pink flag-stones reflecting the lively colours from different shop doorways. Or maybe a quiet stroll around a sleeping port, boats gently bobbing, and guarded by the ever present yellow-lit Venetian campanile.
Alternatively, take a road that will lead you to a lazy day at the sea-side, but no ordinary bucket-and-spade day this - Istrian seas are, without exception, clean, clear and every shade of pure azure blue. Sitting at the water's edge on bright white pebbles, gaze out to misty islands, themselves all green pine forests and white beaches. Many are reachable by boat so why not spend a day exploring them or else just relax on your chosen island with a picnic?
Don't miss the Brijuni Islands ‚Äď a fabulous seven kilometre long necklace of fourteen islands, a paradise national park where the abundance of unusual flora and faunamingle happily withnumerous bird species, deer and mouflon. Join the celebrities and world statesmen who rightly choose these islands as their private holiday hideaway.
One of the best is the look-alike Victorian railway station in Pula, complete with first floor bars so that you can plan your assault of the stalls below while enjoying a leisurely coffee. Inside are the fish and meat halls while outside is the larger market, thankfully shaded by high trees, selling fruit, vegetables and all manner of fresh local produce.
All major towns have a good selection of shops, of most varieties, but don't expect to find the ubiquitous shopping centres or malls anywhere. Istrian shops tend to be small, but big on service and low prices.
Eating out tends to take the Italian form of trattorias and osterias, usually in stunning settings. Main courses tend to arrive with potatoes and bietola (type of spinach) already included. A 3 course meal with wine in an average establishment is around ¬£6 or ¬£7 per person (at the time of writing). A great place to try is the village of Flengi, near Porec, it's littered with roadside porchetta restaurants (succulent roast suckling pig, spit-roasted at the roadside) complete with beckoning chefs in tall white hats, it is well worth submitting to them!
Yet quality is assured because the tourist office vets all restaurants and tavernas and recommends a fine-tuned 80 of them. Ask your local tourist office for the Istria Gastro Guide.
Original dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients and with a bygone level of service await you in these eateries.
Here is a 'hit parade' of Istrian food that simply must be tried: Creamy fusi al tartufo, little pasta cylinders, with white truffle shavings; scampi alla buzzara, with tomato, garlic and lemon - serviettes in collars are a must for the delicious soup that comes with this dish!; Cevapcici ‚Äď herby little sausages ‚Äď eaten with a side dish of onions and ivar (a red, peppery sauce); fresh wild asparagus in April, sold at the roadside by charming old ladies; Istrian ham, cut thicker than the Parma variety and very flavourful on its own or as an ingredient. Istrian truffles (both white and black) are even exported to Italy. And it is the white truffle that is most highly prized.
Other notables are the Muscats of Momjan and the Muscat Rose of Porec¬° with good Chardonnays and white and grey pinots bringing up the not inconsiderable rear. To finish, Kruskovac, a delicious pear liqueur.
Istrians are renowned as particularly hospitable people, especially in inland Istria, and you may be invited in for some locally dried ham washed down by a drink of home-made Rakija, a grape or fig brandy.
A wide variety of cuisines is the result of different farm crops being cultivated with great care because agriculture, the food industry and tourism are considered strategic branches of the Croatian economy.
Cereals .The most widely used cereal, corn, has been replaced over the last few decades by wheat, while the once‚Äďwidespread barley and rye have gained currency lately because of the growing demand for more organic foodstuffs.Bread has always played an important role in nutrition and there is a tradition of baking high‚Äďquality bread from wheat flour or, particularly in the continental areas, from wheat flour mixed with corn, rye or barley, and various types of breadrolls, while particularly popular are pasta and cakes.The most frequent side dish is rice, which is exclusively imported.
Meat .The Croats like meat, and although the most popular dish is suckling pig or lamb on the spit, they most often eat pork and young beef or veal, while the most widely consumed varieties of poultry are chicken, roast goose and duck.In the last century poultry, and particularly goose liver, from the low‚Äďlying regions of Posavina, Podravina, Me√įimurje and Slavonia was exported to Western Europe.Highly appreciated are Adriatic fish, crabs and shellfish, while freshwater fish and game have only recently regained popularity.Also popular are traditional meat products such as prosciutto in Dalmatia and Istria, kulen in Slavonia and Baranja, cured bacon throughout the country, and pork knuckles, smoked garlic‚Äďflavoured salami and blood sausages in the lowlands.
Dairy products .The developed livestock industry offers a variety of delicious milk products.Cattle breeding in the continental areas boasts cottage cheese which is used for preparing various dishes, and may also be dried or smoked (turoŇ°i in Me√įimurje, prge in Podravina, basa and Ň°kripavac in Lika).Sheep are raised in Lika, Zagora, along the coast and on the islands, and sheep ‚Äôs cheese such as that from Pag and Dubrovnik can match the world ‚Äôs most famous cheeses.
Fats .The continental regions most often use cooking oil obtained from sunflower seeds, rape and maize.The use of lard is still common while clarified butter is very rarely consumed. On the other hand, the coastal regions prefer green and black olives and olive oil.Black pumpkin oil for salad is greatly appreciated, particularly in Me√įimurje.
Vegetables .The most common vegetable is the potato, followed by beans, cabbage, tomatoes, onions and lattuce.Because of the mild climate on the coast, fresh leafy greens, such as chard, are available almost year round.People in the continental areas are more skilful in food preservation, particularly in pickling and salting (cabbage, turnip, peppers, cucumbers, beetroot).The same applies to fruit, which was once cooked or dried, but nowadays, as with vegetables, it is frozen and used in the preparation of a large number of dishes, not just desserts.
Fruit .Plums are especially popular.Famous plum brandy is made in continental Croatia;cherries are used for making cherry brandy, known in the Zadar area as maraschino.Inhabitants of Samobor use must (young wine)and spices to make vermouth, which is called berm t locally;in southern Croatia preference is given to sherry, while bitter herbal liqueurs are popular in all parts of the country.Unfortunately, the traditions of northwestern Croatia, which preserve ancient Slav roots, are dying out.They include beekeeping and church feasts with mead. Aromatic herbs are often added to grape brandy and marc to produce herb‚Äďflavoured brandy.
Wild herbs and mushrooms occupy a special place in Croatian gastronomy.In spring, people in continental Croatia enjoy salads made of dandelion leaves, while Istrians or Dalmatians relish wild asparagus.Istrian soil conceals truffles, while the continental regions are strewn with hundreds of species of mushroom, the most popular being agaric and field mushrooms.Women from the islands of Kor√®ula or Kornati can prepare a simple meal with a mixture of about 40 varieties of herbs.The most famous Croatian food trademark, Vegeta , arose from the tradition of growing, picking, and drying aromatic herbs (of the cultivated herbs, the most common are used as spices: parsley, celery, ayenne pepper and onion, while the most common wild herbs are bay leaves and rosemary). It is something of an oddity that the last witch in medieval Zagreb was burnt for imitating saffron.Spice routes used by aravans of traders have been known since ancient times.They were used, for example, to transport fresh sea fish to the Zrinski family in Cakovec.According to recipes left by diocesan confectioner Alojz Ň†enoa, pineapples were delivered to Zagreb by those routes in the last century.Unfortunately, dogrose berries are used less and less often for making jam and chamomile, wild rose, raspberries, blackberries, lime and other plants for tea.However, imported coffee is very popular, and is prepared either Turkish‚Äďstyle, or as Italian espresso and Viennese kaputziner.
Viticulture and Wine
Croatia is experiencing a revival of viticulture, which has been present here since ancient times.In the continental regions it was spread by the Romans (e.g.the name of the Moslavina region originates from Mons Claudius, or Claudius ‚Äôhills, because it was planted with grapevines on the emperor ‚Äôs orders). Some indigenous grape varieties on the islands of Hvar and Vis have retained Greek names.Numerous toponyms from Istria to Baranja (Novi Vinodolski, Vinagora, etc.) bear witness to the well‚Äďdeveloped viticulture.There are not many countries that can boast such a variety of wines. Croatia is officially divided into two viticultural regions, according to climatic features and variety of grape; these regions are further divided into subregions and wine‚Äďgrowing areas.Continental Croatia covers the subregions and wine‚Äďgrowing areas of Zagorje, Me√įimurje, Prigorje, PleŇ°ivica, Pokuplje, Moslavina, Bilogora, Podravina, Slavonija and Podunavlje, while the coastal region includes Istria and the northern Adriatic, northern Dalmatia, the Dalmatian hinterland known as Zagora, and central and southern Dalmatia. Croatia produces nearly 700 registered wines, among them a dozen premium varietals, such as Malvazija and Hrvatica rose from Buje; Muscatel Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Porec; Teran from Buzet, ŇĹlahtina from Vrbnik, Babic from PrimoŇ°ten, Bugava from Vis, Plavac from Bol, Faros, Plavac Ivan Dolac (Sviree), Golden Plavac (Vitis, Jelsa), BogdanjuŇ°a (Planeia), Postup Donja Banda, Dingac and PoŇ°ip (Smokvica) (all from Korcula), and Grk from Lumbar.Other well‚Äďknown wines are Portugizac (ReŇĺek), Rhine Riesling (Jambrovic), Chardonnay (Tomac) and Green Silvanac (Bolta) from Jastrebarsko; Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon and Predikanta, Sauvignon (Lebara), Yellow Muscatel (ŇĹidov) from Ň†trigovo;Chardonnay (Lovrec) and Muscatel Ottonel (Matanovic) from Urban, Champagne (Turk), Rhine Riesling and Grey Pinot from BoŇĺjakovina; White Pinot (Jarec) from Sveti Ivan Zelina; Rhine Riesling (Kos) from Hrnjci;White Pinot and Ň†krlet from Moslavina; GraŇ°evina, Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling and established wines from Kutjevo;Rhine Riesling and GraŇ°evina (Enjingija), GraŇ°evina (Krauthaker), aromatic Traminac (Mili√®evi√¶), green Silvanac and Frankovka from Orahovica; Rhine Riesling, Ilok Traminac and Chardonnay from Vukovar;GraŇ°evina PajzoŇ° from Ilok; Tranava Traminac from √źakovo; Mandi√¶evac GraŇ°evina and Mandiceva White Pinot from √źakovo. Tourism is directly linked with gastronomy, viticulture and the wine business.With small vintners gaining prominence, wine‚Äďrelated events are being organized, such as Martinmas and Vincekovo;wine cellars (the oldest and most interesting are in Zagreb, e.g.Vinium, Bornstein and Le Gout); and wine routes, of which those in Moslavina (Kutina), Prigorje (Zelina) and Zagorje (PlemenŇ°cina) have a certain amount of success. Wine routes in PleŇ°ivica, Istria (Buje) and Me√įimurje have recently been set up while the establishment of those in PeljeŇ°ac and Slavonia (PoŇĺega valley) is under way.
Many Croatian customs are associated with food and drink.It is hard to imagine a harvest without mature kulen and a good wine, or grape‚Äďpicking and pig‚Äďslaughtering occasions without a good brandy, or a must christening at Martinmas without a roast goose with chestnuts.In Mediterranean Croatia, one cannot fast without codfish, Christmas is known for sarma and turkey (with mlinci in Zagorje, buckwheat porridge in Me√įimurje), the New Year for a suckling pig, and Easter for baked ham.Many toasts, such as ¬ĽMay God grant you as many years as there are drops of wine, ¬ęexpress a true gratitude for the fruit which, in return for their hard labour, the earth offers farmers, cattle breeders, wine growers and fishermen, as well as all those who delight in the tastes, smells and colours of the fruit they put on the table with their celebrated hospitality.