The Gastronomer's Guide
5 Croatian Dishes That Will Get Your Mouth Watering
What comes to mind when you think of Croatian cuisine? If nothing immediately, that’s probably because it’s such a mish-mash of other countries’ kitchens. Over the years, Croatian forks have been influenced by Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Turkey, among others. Yet the result, today, is a large menu of dishes the Croats call their own. Here are five we could barely write about without drooling all over — never mind.
1. Crni rizot
You can’t walk into a seafood restaurant in Croatia without finding crni rizot on their menu. What is it? It’s their version of risotto, made with squid or cuttlefish. Especially popular along the coast, it gets an intense seafood flavor and a dark shade from the squid ink it’s made with. If you’re not sure, just ask a local — they’ll tell you it’s a lot tastier than it looks. Beware: It will actually turns your lips and teeth black, so you might want to wash up before leaving the restaurant!
Where to find it: Head to the coast, where any Dalmatian konoba — or tavern — will surely have what you’re looking for.
Originally from neighboring Slovenia, this traditional Croatian dessert is now mega-popular in Zagreb. It’s a delicious pastry filled with cottage cheese and sour cream. Cue the mouth-watering! It can be prepared one of two ways: Boiled in water or baked in the oven. But fork it, we’ll take our štrukli any way we can get it!
Where to find it: La Štruk is a restaurant in Zagreb solely dedicated to making štrukli. They serve the classic savory cheese version, but also a sweet jam-based variation, one with walnuts and honey, and another with apple and cinnamon. In other words, run don’t walk to La Štruk.
3. Pasticada s njokima
Known as the Queen of Dalmatian Cuisine, this saliva-inducing dish actually has old ties to the south of France, but now belongs to Croatia. It’s often served on holidays or at weddings, and every Croatian family has their own recipe. In general, it consists of baby beef marinated in wine vinegar for days, then braised in its juices and red wine, and eventually served with gnocchi. For a twist, you can substitute the wine for prosecco and add vinegar, garlic, and bacon to the marinade.
Where to find it: If you know a local, have them serve it to you! Because it takes long to make and its ingredients aren’t cheap, it’s hard to find a quality pasticada.
4. Punjene paprike
If you go to Croatia in the summer, don’t miss out on its favorite warm-weather dish. Punjene paprike is made up of bell peppers stuffed with minced meat, rice, and spices, then cooked with tomato sauce. While the makeup remains the same, the minced meat portion is fairly regional. In Dalmatia, for example, they’ll use baby beef, whereas in Slavonia it’ll be pork meat. Serve with a side of mashed potatoes and enjoy!
Where to find it: Our local sources tell us there’s a restaurant called Orca in Rovinj, slightly away from the town center, with some of the best punjene paprike aroun
We saved the sweetest for last. This addictive treat is common in coastal Croatia. Picture this: Ball-shaped, deep-fried dough made with flour, raisins, lemon zest, and local schnapps. Talk about mini donuts on steroids! Those with their own recipes may add orange rinds, egg yolks, rakija, or powdered sugar. If you’re in Croatia close to the holidays, you won’t have to look for Fritule — it’ll find you.
Where to find it (…if it doesn’t find you): Again, they’re probably best made by the locals. So, make yourself some friends and get involved in the most delicious Croatian Christmas tradition.