For a country so small, Croatia is bursting with an array of flavours and is the proud home to many mouthwatering dishes. Some originated in the country itself whilst others have been influenced by past links with numerous empires such as the Romans, Venetians, Greeks and Ottomans. Sailing along the Dalmatian coastline is the perfect opportunity to try lots of fresh seafood along with a Captain’s BBQ cooked onboard, and an optional excursion to try a traditional meal called Peka, paired with some local cheese and wine. Here are some of the tastiest things you can try on your sailing trip!
Did you know that the fish in Croatia swim three times? Once in the sea, once in olive oil and once in wine. And a fourth if you include inside your belly. The whole west side of the country is coastline and a large part of the economy comes from fishing. Many restaurants cook up the fresh catch of the day and serve a variety of seafood straight from the Adriatic including fried and grilled squid.
Black cuttlefish risotto (crni rizot) is a must-try. Although visually unappealing, this unique dish is made from cuttlefish and dyed black from squid ink. Despite its colour, the flavour is similar to a normal seafood risotto. I recommend sharing this with a few others as a side dish.
Ordering just a salad in a restaurant will ensure a funny look from the waiter who will most likely bring you a bowl of lettuce and tomatoes (I’ve seen it happen numerous times!). Croatians are big meat eaters and you’ll have to try the delicious Croatian BBQ cooked onboard by your boat crew.
Ćevapi are simple but delicious small rolls of spiced minced meat that resemble a sausage. Enjoy it whilst the sun is going down, pairing it with chargrilled vegetables and some Ajva (pronounced eye-var). Roasted eggplant and red peppers are the key ingredients to this bright orange spread and taste great paired with Ćevapi, bread, vegetables or salad. Anything really! Ajva is always a crowd pleaser whether you are vegan, vegetarian or a meat-lover.
Pašticada is a beef stew with a combination of flavours such as red wine and prunes. Served with gnocchi, preparation can last a few days so you can appreciate every bite. Peka is one of Croatia’s most famous dishes. Lamb or veal is the most common type of meat used for this dish. The cooking process begins in a pot which is then put into the embers of a fireplace where it slowly roasts for hours. Punjena paprika (stuffed peppers). Now this is what a Croatian grandma’s cooking tastes like! These capsicums stuffed with minced meat, rice and various herbs are not on every menu when sailing the coastline. Therefore if you find it, be sure to try it!
Pršut is no doubt the country’s most famous hors-d’oeuvre, a home-cured ham served in thin slices. It takes a lot of time to produce, starting by salting and flattening the hind legs of a pig under rocks. Hung outside of peoples homes, the meat is then dried by the Bura, the famous cold, dry wind that sweeps along the coastline from inland. The ham is then hung indoors, waiting to be eaten the following summer after it has matured.
Paski sir is just one of Croatia’s award-winning cheeses, and this particular one is from the island of Pag. Made from sheep’s milk, the sheep literally graze on nothing more than grass and various aromatic plants, producing a unique flavour.
Treat yourself to a starter of prosciutto and cheese in a local Konoba at one of your many stops. Pair them with freshly baked bread and some healthy extra virgin olive oil. Often made in people’s backyards, Croatian olive oil is rich in colour and free of preservatives. It tastes even better with some local wine.
Bogdanuša, Pošip, Graševina and Grk are the white wines you have to try, if you’re a staunch white vino drinker. Croatian wine is relatively unknown to the rest of the world considering the number of vineyards that are present in the country. In 2010, Croatia ranked 30th in a list of wine producing countries. That’s pretty impressive for a country the size of Tasmania in Australia!
Plavac Mali should be your go-to if you’re a red wine drinker. You can’t go wrong with this one!
Ožujsko and Karlovačko are two of the most popular brands of beer in Croatia. Once you decide which one you like, you better stick with it. Croatians take this as serious as which football team they follow.
Burek is what you need to eat after a big night of partying in the Rave Cave or after too many tequila boom-booms on the island of Hvar. You can find these at any pekara (bakery) and they are super cheap. This delicious puff pastry can be filled with cheese, potato, minced meat, spinach & cheese, and even chocolate. Palacinke – pronounced pa-la-cheen-ka – is an inexpensive dessert resembles a crepe and is most commonly sold at food stalls. Fill them with Nutella, jam, fruit, honey or sweet cheese.
Fritule are cute little puff pastries that taste similar to a doughnut, deep fried and dusted with icing sugar.
Finally, you need to remember the word zivjeli. It means ‘cheers’, and may be one of the most important words for your journey through Hrvatska (that’s Croatia in Croatian!). Rakija is the most popular spirit in Croatia. Often served before a meal, it is more than just a drink. Many consider it a secret weapon and refer to it as medicine. It destroys bacteria, disinfects wounds and relieves your stomach of cramps. Got a sore throat? Drink some Medica (honey). Sore stomach? Have a shot of Travarica, a herbal rakija. Got a cut? Put some rakija on it. Literally, anything that can be fermented such as fruit, vegetables, herbs and even parts of trees can be turned into rakija!
With your food options covered, all that you need to worry about is how many times you want to jump into the perfect blue Adriatic sea before your lunch bell rings. Don’t forget to say ‘dobar tek’ (good meal)!