By Andrea Pisac
Zagreb street food revolution?
On the last Saturday in September Zagreb got its first organised street food event – Klopa s klupa [food from a bench]. At 6pm the whole Dolac farmers’ market transformed into an open-air eatery. Top Zagreb restaurants cooked. 5.000 people showed up. I showed up.
To my utmost delight, I scored my favourite childhood dessert: Kaiserschmarrn (or the Austrian-style shredded pancake). It’s one of those things you can rarely find in a restaurant, but a thing of the little Madeleine magnitude.
If that wasn’t enough to turn me into the event’s fan, I also found Lebanese aubergine dip mutabbal. I devoured it with some flat bread.
Klopa s klupa promises to be back every month following its inauguration. With some luck, we might even have weekly events at Dolac. But is this really street food? Or the colourful and cheap food that Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico or Morocco are famous for?
Brussels made it to the top 10 world’s best street food cities with only fries and waffles. So why not try simple Zagreb street food that has been around for as long as the city can remember? After all, street food is what local people like to grab on their way to work or as they stroll around with friends.
It’s the kind of food that needs no tourist advertising to become popular.
If you want to sample delicacies from top Zagreb restaurants gathered in one place – then look out for Klopa s klupa events. But this should not stop you from enjoying Zagreb real street food available every day.
– Corn on a cob in the summer.
– Roast chestnuts in autumn and winter.
– Burek and a host of other pastries from a local bakery all year around.
– Sausage in a bun with mulled wine during Christmas festivities.
– Ice-cream (believe it or not – all year around).
These delicacies exhibit all the elements of street food around the world.
– They are simple and simply prepared.
– Most are healthy – what can be healthier than fruit picked in a forest?
– They are cheap – you can get any of these for around 15 Kn (2 Euros) and they’ll make for a light meal.
– Buying corn and chestnuts from street vendors supports local economy, helping people who are out of jobs to make a bit of money.
– You can eat these traditional street delicacies while walking – but you can also take them to a coffee shop. No one will mind. In fact many people buy their breakfast pastry in a bakery and eat it in a cafe.
– Doing what locals do makes for a wholesome experience of the city – believe me, you’ll never forget the warmth of roast chestnuts on your fingers on a cold and foggy autumn day!
Zagreb street food: what you should expect
I can’t wait until the next Klopa s klupa event takes place at Dolac. For one thing, top Zagreb restaurants really know how to whip up mouth-watering food. But Klopa s klupa is not the kind of street food you see around the world. And here’s why:
#1 It’s catered by high quality restaurants and not street vendors.
Why is this a problem? Street food has a special economic value for a city. It creates jobs for food providers and offers less expensive meals to those who can’t afford restaurant prices. Historically, street food economy has supported the growth of many world’s largest cities.
#2 Some food is not prepared on the street but brought along from a restaurant kitchen.
Recently many world top chefs have tried their hand at street food. The main aim is to strip down a traditional delicacy from complex culinary techniques while using fresh high quality ingredients. It allows artisan food to be cooked at a stall. This was by and large missing at Klopa s klupa.
#3 The food is not really affordable.
Remember that street food originally developed as a way to feed poor people, some of whom didn’t even have a kitchen in their houses. I paid 30 Kn (around 4 Euros) for a small dollop of mutabbal and 2 triangles of flat bread. While I waited to be served I was seriously elbowed by a group of elderly hungry people. They brought along their own spoons and polished off all the free samples. It was a very sad scene to behold.
#4 There was both traditional and international food.
This was warmly welcomed by those who have travelled widely and often complain of a lack of international cuisine in Zagreb. But ethnic food served on the streets of large cities around the world is usually a reflection of their multicultural population. In Zagreb, this was more a reflection of the city’s wish to follow global trends in food and tourism.
Zagreb street food for travellers
Klopa s klupa undoubtedly livened up the city atmosphere. We do need more of it. So if you’re around for the next event, come along.
But I also urge you not to overlook the simple, understated, and yet so delicious traditional Zagreb street food. Get your fingers dirty as you peel off those hot velvety chestnuts! The season has just started. (photo / klopasklupa)