Known for its varied cuisine, Croatia offers an excellent smorgasbord of tastes and culinary traditions. While you will consistently find certain staples around the country, such as charcuterie and soup, each specific region proposes a unique and distinct fare, drawn from neighboring cultures and local ingredients. This gastronomic tour of Croatia will have your mouth watering until the very end!
By starting with the coastal region of Dalmatia, we introduce the Mediterranean flavors so prevalent in this locale’s cuisine. Fish and seafood are obvious choices for this seaside location, as well as the country’s meridional herbs such as sage, bay leaf, rosemary, and basil. Food prepared in this region is often cooked in water, offering tasty dishes such as fish soup with garlic, parsley, and rice, or brudet, a renowned seafood stew, using the fresh daily catches from the Adriatic. Scampi, crabs, and shellfish are some of the popular ingredients for this delicious stew, although each chef has his or her own special recipe. Another delight from Dalmatia is the black risotto, made from squid ink and cuttlefish. Known for its laid-back lifestyle, the region of Dalmatia keeps a simple approach in regards to its cuisine. A simple meal of olives, fruits, nuts, and seafood is a Mediterranean favorite that continues to receive world-wide recognition.
While the regions of Istria and Kvarner also share the Adriatic coast with Dalmatia, the gastronomic culture is different. Blending Mediterranean traditions with continental cuisine, Istria is known as the gastronomic hub of Croatia. Seafood with marjoram and rosemary is a favorite in the region, although the true treasure of Istria is its olive groves. With over 1.5 million trees between Istria and Kvarner, olives and olive oil are a prized possession, winning international competitions for centuries. This region is also celebrated for its homemade pasta. There is a special art in the preparation and cooking of certain famous pastas, like fužiand pljukanci; you will understand after a taste why the locals are so proud. Istria’s truffles are a gastronomic gem, known throughout the region and beyond. Black and white truffles are both esteemed in this area, and can be eaten as a main dish or combined with other fine dishes. In addition to this mass of culinary assets, the island of Pag in the region of Kvarner is known for its divine prosciutto and hard sheep-milk’s cheese. Found in markets in and outside of Croatia, Pag cheese has been written about by travel journalists for centuries.
In continental Croatia, the gastronomic traditions vary according to the seasons throughout the year. This land-locked region is gastronomically marked by history, borrowing culinary traditions from neighboring lands and past events. Known for their rich meat-based dishes, the locals of the mountains and surrounding areas rely heavily on poultry, venison, beef, and pork. Potatoes, beans, cabbage, and onions are the frequent vegetables of this region, often spiced with paprika and pepper, offering hefty dishes for the sometimes cold and long winters. Pears, apples, and apricots are also a regional favorite, although plums are the most popular, used in salty dishes as well as for a sweet local brandy called šljivovica. Dumplings and soups hail from the peasant heritage, often seasoned with garlic and parsley, eaten often for Sunday dinners in many Croatian families. Inherited from the Hungarians, the spicy stew, paprikaš, is made from potato, paprika, peppers, bacon, and sausage. Pastries and tarts are an impressive addition to this region’s culinary delicacies; walnut-filled nut cakes and poppy seed rolls are just a few of the delicious sweets of continental Croatia.
Of course, you cannot forget the amazing liquors, beer, and wine that make up the multifarious food culture of Croatia! Medovina, Orahovac, and Pelinkovac are just a few of the new tastes to pair with the amazing food of this country. One thing is for certain: you will never go hungry or thirsty in this fantastic gastronomic land.
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