For a small country, Croatia offers a vast range of cuisine, with dishes varying from region to region. Wherever your travels take you, local and seasonal specialities are sure to form a memorable part of your holiday, so here are some must-tries.
FROM THE LAND & SEA
Meat dishes usually consist of a grilled or pan-fried chop or escalope of pork or veal. Lamb is prepared as a spit-roast and it’s quite common to see a whole animal being roasted over an open fire outside a restaurant to lure in customers. A typical way to prepare meat in Istria and the Adriatic islands is to slow bake it under a peka – a metal lid that’s covered with hot embers. Stewed meat is less common, although goulash is sometimes served as a sauce with pasta, and the Dalmatian dish of pasticada – beef cooked in wine and prunes – is popular. Occupying a great position along the Adriatic coastline, expect a huge choice of seafood dishes throughout Croatia. From octopus salad and squid ink risotto to sea bass and whitebait, there’s something for every taste, with fish grilled, baked or pan-fried. Maybe try gregada, a peasant stew made with fish, potatoes and onions, or a riblja plata – a sharing platter of fish and shellfish.
FROM THE VINEYARDS
You may not have seen much of it here in the UK, but Croatian wine has a long history. It was the Greek settlers who first introduced vineyards to the country in the 5th century BC, and the delicious complex wines produced today probably rarely make it to export because they’re just too good! Of the 700 or so wines produced here now, there are plenty you should give a go. The majority is white, from vines cultivated in the country’s interior, with reds generally produced along the coast. In northern Croatia try Zlahtina, Sauvignon and Merlot. And in Dalmatia names to look for include Dingac, Vugava and Posip. You might also come across mixed wine drinks such as bevanda, which is white or red mixed with water, and gemist, white wine and sparkling water. There’s also the summer tipple bambus – this red wine mixed with cola may not be your thing but it is very popular here
FROM THE GARDEN
Most meat and fish dishes are accompanied by a mash of chard and potatoes called blitva. Rice and pasta are commonplace too, and local forms of pasta includes fuži in Istria, which is pasta dough rolled into a cylinder. In Zagreb, try mlinci – lasagne-thin strips of dough, which are boiled then baked. Plenty of salad is always on offer as well as pickled peppers, grilled root vegetables and, of course olives. Grown here for centuries, this small fruit produces high-quality extra virgin olive oil - a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. Herbs are used liberally too, with rosemary, sage, bay leaf, oregano and marjoram adding flavour to dishes, and fruit is plentiful, from citrus fruits to figs. A prized speciality is Istria’s truffles, which when discovered – usually by specially trained dogs – are worth their weight in gold and turn a meal into a gourmet meal.