Exploring Croatian Food
For such a tiny country, Croatian traditional food can vary a great deal from one Croatian region to another. Of course, some dishes are found through the whole country, but the complex history (and geography) of this boomerang-shaped nation has also resulted in specialist dishes in each region.
As our cruises mostly focus on Dalmatia, this is the best region to explore first. As you would expect, this coastal region has typically Mediterranean features to its cuisine: fish, olive oil, garlic, vegetables and herbs such as rosemary and parsley.
Inevitably, considering that swathes of Dalmatia were ruled by Italians at various points in history, there is a significant Italian influence in the cuisine from this region.
A classic dish is dagnje na buzaru (mussel stew), which consists of mussels sautéed in garlic, olive oil, parsley and white wine. A popular side dish that almost always accompanies grilled fish or squid is called blitva, which is Swiss chard with potatoes, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Although the cuisine from Istria is similar in many ways to that from Dalmatia (due to the region having a lengthy Mediterranean coast, with further influence from Italy), Istria has some of its own unique dishes and cooking techniques. These include manestra, a kind of bean soup, or fuzi, a hand-rolled type of pasta.
And there is no way to discuss Istrian dishes without mentioning tartufi – truffles! Both black and white truffles thrive in the forests of Istria and it was a source of real irritation to Istrian pride that their truffles were sold for many years after independence as Italian.
Istrian truffles are most often eaten with pasta, njoki (gnocchi) or sometimes grated over a juicy steak.
Much of the cuisine from inland Croatia regions such as Slavonia, Zagorje, Zagreb and Lika have many similarities with central European countries such as Hungary and Austria, which makes sense considering these regions were under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire.
Stewed vegetables with a small amount of meat or sausages (in Croatian known as varivo or čušpajz) is perceived as a healthy, traditional meal, whereas sour cream can be added to the plate just before serving.
Popular dishes include gulaš (goulash) – especially with wine, fish stew (riblji paprikaš/fiš-paprikaš) or chicken stew, grah i zelje (pork hock bean stew with sauerkraut) and čobanac (shepherd’s stew).
- There is so much in the way of appetizers and desserts in Croatia, so check out our story on APPETIZERS, CHEESES AND DESSERTS.
- Many readers might also object to the omission of the famous ispod peke dishes from this article. Don’t worry! It’s all covered in its own special story here: ISPOD PEKE – A MOUTH-WATERING CROATIAN DISH
- Finally, you might be keen to know the types of dishes you will be enjoying on board our boats: WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS SERVED ON BOARD?