EXPLORING CROATIA BY COURSES
Continental Croatia, which incorporates Bilogora, Zagreb, Zagorje, Podravina, and MeĐimurje along the Hungarian and Slovenian borders, is known for its hearty, robust dishes that pull from its agricultural foundation—a base that means dishes vary with the seasons.
For breakfast, you are likely to see Žganci, a form of grits usually topped with sour cream, yogurt, bacon, or cheese (prgica). Common main dishes included preserved meats, turkey, and duck served with baked noodles (mlinci). Ground meat served in cabbage leaves (sarma), and blood sausage served with sauerkraut (krvavice) are also popular menu items.
Desserts are often phyllo (štrukle) or crepes (palačinke) stuffed with fresh fruit, cheese, nuts, honey, or jam. Most menus also list potato dumplings stuffed with plums (knedle sa šljivama). If you visit Međimurje, the pièce de résistance is the prekmurska gibanica, a yeast cake layered with fresh goodies such as raisins, poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, and cheese.
Dalmatian cuisine is most aptly characterized by its simplicity and freshness.
Main meals most often begin with pršut—a dry-cured ham similar to Italian proscuitto—and Paški sir—a hard, tangy sheep’s cheese made on Pag Island. Pršut and Paški sir are often served topped with a variety of olives.
Dalmatians also prize seafood dishes due to their coastal position. Oysters (kamenice) from Pelješac Peninsula’s Ston are considered a specialty, and many Dalmatians order salata od hobotnice—a salad made of octopus, onions, and potatoes soaked in olive oil and splashed in vinegar—as an appetizer or light lunch.
Many appetizers were passed down by the Venetians to the Dalmatians, often taking the form of seafood risottos: crnirižot (risotto blackened with squid ink), rižot sa škampima (shrimp risotto), and rižot frutti di mare (seafood risotto, prepared with mussels, prawns, clams, octopus, or squid). And of course, the Adriatic catch of the day is always worth checking out.
Main courses often include blitva (a dish of potatoes and boiled Swiss chard), školjke i škampi na buzaru (a stew made of shrimp and shellfish), ribana žaru (a dish of grilled fish with olive oil), and pašticada (a stewed beef dish in red wine with prunes).
Good Dalmatian wines to pair with your meals:
Reds: Plavac and Babić
Whites: Bogdanuša, Pošip, Grk and Vugava
ISTRIA & KVARNER
North of Dalmatia lies Istria and Kvarner, where coastal and inland cuisine merge—making them the regions with the widest range of Croatian cuisine. Neighboring Italy also lent many of its culinary accents to Istria. In particular, Istria’s love of pasta. Njaki (gnocchi), quill-shaped tubes of fuži pasta, hearty minestrone-esque bean and vegetable soup known as maneštra, and mare e monte—which translates to ‘sea and mountains’—which serves up mushrooms with shellfish.
Istria is known for having some of Croatia’s most sophisticated cuisine, with renowned dishes including: kuhane kozice (boiled prawns), riblji složenac (fish stew), riblja juha (fish soup), and crni rižoto sa plodovima mora (black and white seafood risotto).
Istrians are also well known for their use of truffles (tartufi) in dishes, so Istrian fuzi with truffles (Istarski fuži sa tartufima) is a worthwhile dish to try.
Good Istrian wines to pair with your meals:
Whites: Vrbnička žlahtina, Malvazija
GORSKI KOTAR & LIKA
The Lika and Gorski Kotar regions lie southwest of central Croatia and include the Plitvice Lakes National Park. While the cuisine offered in this region is similar to that found in central Croatia, homemade cheeses, spit-roasted pork and lamb, and fruit brandies are frequently offered by roadside stalls.
Many dishes are baked under a metal, bell-shaped lid known as a peka, and lamb (janjetina) prepared this way is a regional specialty. Sauerkraut prepared in the Lika style, consisting of smoked sausage and potatoes along with the marinated cabbage, is a regional delicacy. Cabbage makes another appearance in a dish known as the Licki pot, or lički lonac—a stew made of cabbage, root vegetables, potatoes, and meat. Drunken trout (pijane pastrve), fish prepared in wine sauce and accompanied with vegetables and potatoes, is another dish commonly served here.
SLAVONIA & BARANJA
Slavonia and Baranja lie in continental Croatia’s eastern region, and its Hungarian heritage is very much evidence in its food, especially as paprika makes a regular appearance in dishes. Popular dishes include: punjene paprike (paprika-spiced peppers stuffed with minced bacon, rice, and pork), ribli paprikaš (a fish-based stew heavily spiced with paprika), kulen (a spicy paprika sausice), and čobanac (a meat goulash seasoned with bay leaves, garlic, and yup, you guessed it, paprika). Rezanc (egg noodles served with sweetened poppy seeds or walnuts) and grilled fish are also favored regional dishes, and you will often spot ajvar, a savory red-pepper tapenade, served alongside meat dishes.
Popular Slavonian Wine:
FISH TIPS FOR ORDERING IN CROATIA
How Do You Want Your Fish Prepared?
- Grilled over wood with olive oil (na žaru)
- Baked (u pećnici)
- Boiled (lešo)