By Mia. K
Whether you’re taking a city break in Zagreb or Split, or spending time on the coast or inland, Croatia offers a wide variety of delicious food options that will leave you wanting more. Here are a selection of 20 to try whilst in Croatia.
1. Pršut & Pag Cheese
These hors d’oeuvreare are so good that they could almost be a main. The home-cured ham pršut, which is perhaps Croatia’s most famous hors d’oeuvre, is a must-try. Preparation is key to a good pršut. After washing, salting and flattening under rocks, the hams are then hung out to dry. The unique taste and texture is thanks to the cold bura winds which sweep down to the coast which dry the ham. Croatia is also home to a number of award-winning cheeses and if you get a chance you need to try some Paški sir – which is cheese from the island of Pag. The cheese is made solely from milk produced by sheep which are left to graze freely on local grass, and aromatic plants and herbs.
Soparnik generally is a savoury pie with a filling of Swiss chard, or blitva as it is known in Croatia. It is the most famous speciality of the dalmatian region Poljica, which lies between Split and Omiš and was recently given EU protection status. A great alternative to pizza and it goes fantastic with red wine.
3. Lamb on the Spit
Rarely a big occasion will go by in Croatia without lamb being cooked in this delicious way. Lamb on the spit, or ‘Janje na ražnju’ in Croatian, has according to some local experts been a favourite method of cooking in Croatia for over 8,000 years. Apart from the slow method of cooking, what makes this meal so good is the quality of lamb in Croatia – especially from the islands. Lambs from Cres and Pag are world-renowned. Best served simply with bread and spring onions.
4. Punjena Paprika (Stuffed Peppers)
Perfect for the summer months due to its light, refreshing nature. What makes this meal so good is the availability of fresh octopus in Croatia. Fresh out of the Adriatic, the octopus is boiled, chopped up into small pieces, and then tossed with a dressing (olive oil, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon) and combined with finely chopped tomatoes, onions and parsley. Finger-licking good.
‘Ispod peke’, or ‘under the bell’, is something you need to try at least once when in Croatia. Usually lamb, veal or octopus is placed with vegetables inside a dish with a metal lid. The dish is then cooked in an open fireplace by the hot coals and embers which are placed over the lid. The dish is left to cook slowly in its own juices until the meat is tender. This dish is a winner.
Fritule are little Croatian doughnuts which can be made with apples, raisins or coated with chocolate sauce. They are commonly found at stands on the coast or at market stalls particularly over the festive period.
7. Škampi na buzaru
Can not go past this dish especially on the coast. Scampi cooked in garlic, tomato and a white wine sugo.
These tasty grilled skinless sausages are famous in the region and definitely worth a try whilst you are in Croatia. Usually made with a combination of both pork and beef, the small finger-shaped seasoned sausages are usually served with chopped raw onions, ajvar (relish made from peppers) on flatbread.
If you are on the Dalmatian coast then you must try this dish as it originates in Dalmatia. Dalmatinska pašticada, or just pašticada, is a stewed beef dish cooked in a special sauce and served usually with gnocchi or homemade pasta. The long and meticulous preparation, and the range of fascinating ingredients such as roasted bacon, onions, parsley, nutmeg, prunes, and the sweet dessert wine prošek, helps the wonderful flavours come out.
10. Fish on the Grill
With the Adriatic sea on your doorstep it would be criminal not to leave before trying some fresh fish grilled ‘Dalmatian style’. The method is very basic – wood fire, grill, and some olive oil – but the results are anything other than basic. Best served with some garden-grown blitva (chard) and potatoes and washed down with a glass of Plavac Mali. Great Mediterranean dish and healthy to boot.
In Croatia, the two most popular variants are Samoborska kremšnita from the town of Samobor and Zagrebačka kremšnita from the capital, Zagreb. The Samoborska kremšnita is characterized by having a puff pastry top, predominantly custard cream filling (less whipped cream) and is finished with powdered sugar. Zagrebačka kremšnita has a characteristic chocolate icing instead of the puff pastry top, while maintaining the puff pastry base.
12. Goveđa Juha (Beef Soup)
Goveđa Juha is a great tasty starter to a meal. A number of restaurants will serve homemade soups with a number of different flavours. Not only tasty but also very hearty. Croatians love to start a meal with soup all year round.
13. Zagorski Štrukli
A real true traditional Croatian dish, inducted into the list of Croatia’s intangible cultural heritage, maintained by Croatia’s ministry of culture even, and for that reason you should try it. Zagorski Štrukli is a popular dish in the Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions in the north of the country. Composed of dough and various types of filling, usually cheese, Štrukli can be either cooked or baked.
Brudet, brodet or brodeto is a rich fish stew made in Croatian regions of Dalmatia, Kvarner and Istria. It is made all year round and can come in various versions. Usually served with polenta which soaks up the tasty fish broth.
Rolled cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat are one of the most popular winter dishes in Croatia. Sarma, like stuffed peppers, are not readily available at every restaurant so you will need to look around.
16. Cherry Strudel
Croatia is home to the Guinness Book of Records longest ever strudel at 1,479 metres. There is even a festival dedicated to the strudel. Give an apple or cherry strudel a try, it is delicious.
Čobanac, or Shepherd’s stew, is a specialty from the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia. It is a traditional meat stew usually prepared in a cauldron on an open fire. Although not too spicy they can have a nice little kick to them courtesy of the paprika.
18. Fuži with Truffles
If you are in Istria then you will not be able to escape truffles. The ‘home of truffles’ even has a restaurant where everything on the menu, including dessert, includes truffles. One dish you must try is fuži, a traditional Istrian pasta, with truffles.
These donuts are delightful. They are found at most bakeries and come with either a Jam, chocolate, or vanilla filling.
20. Lovačka Juha (Game stew)
Again not on every menu but the old traditional konobas particularly in the north of the country will serve game stew which usually consists of deer meat stewed in a combination of spices, wine, stock and vinegar.