I’ve been wanting to write a blog for a bit now just about my food experiences in Croatia. Now, I don’t mean just dining out, but the home-cooking as well. All of it.
If you want to read about our food experiences in Zadar from last August, just follow ******THIS LINK*****. Since Miloš and I were away and staying in a hotel, we obviously ate all of our meals out at restaurants. (This post has proven to be a regular stop for people looking online for restaurant suggestions in Zadar! Which, I have to admit, makes me feel pretty cool… 😉 )
In general, there are many dishes native to Croatia that I had never had before, and I would venture to guess that there are a good number of Americans who are in that same boat.
I first experienced some of the home cooking Miloš grew up with a little over a year ago – back in March of 2012 during my first trip to Croatia. The little bit I had was really good.
Then back in January of this year, we had most of our meals at Miloš’ grandmother’s apartment. The meals were cooked by his mother or grandmother, depending on the dish in question or the day it was being made.
Let’s look at some of those dishes now, shall we?
With most of Croatia bordering the lovely Adriatic Sea, it’s not surprising that seafood is an important part of the food chain.
As my regular readers will remember, calamari is big here. It is not an appetizer on the menu of some restaurants like back home. It is a staple of the diet and is a regular entree on all restaurant menus. You can get it fried or grilled. (I don’t like the grilled kind, but am a constant fan of the fried variety!) Most of the time, you will get either mayonnaise or tartar sauce to dip it in. (Ketchup seems to be reserved for the random Americans who want to use it for their french fries.)
Little fishies (Bigar and Srdela):
During our first visit to Burin for my birthday (Burin is a super awesome restaurant that my readers will remember from other posts), the waitress brought out a type of appetizer of little fishies covered in oil and onions. The fishies were whole, and despite being a little bit afraid of how they would taste, I was determined to be the ever adventurous eater that I had been proud of becoming. Miloš showed me the two ways you could eat them: whole, OR cut them lengthwise in half and take out the miniature spine and bones that way. Either way worked. But I have to say…. I didn’t really like them. They were just too fishy for my taste.
Partway through that January stay, Miloš’ grandmother fried up a few of the mini fish too, to have with dinner. They were better fried, I’ll admit, but they were still just so fishy. I could only eat about two or so.
On our last visit to Burin, they brought us little fishies served on a salad – these were MUCH better.
Miloš’ specialty was a tuna pate. It was made from tuna meat, eggs, cheese, and mayo. Then it’s blended all together and served as a spread on bread. I’ve never liked canned tuna, but this was actually pretty good.
During a few of our trips to Burin, I ordered the Scampi/Pasta dish. It was made with homemade pasta, and had pieces of scampi in it, with an amazing sauce. In Croatia, when they refer to scampi, they are referring to the meat of the cray fish. (Sometimes called langoustine lobsters.) It is NOT what we think of when we order shrimp scampi somewhere in the USA. (I had whole scampi in Zadar, but was not a fan of the bodies – I only liked the tail meat.) The meat is firmer than that of shrimp.
Of course, like every where else around the world, people here love their meat. Some of it is similar to what we eat back home, but some is very very different. Let’s start with steak. When you order steak at a restaurant here, you get the filet mignon cut of the beef. Miloš is a big meat eater and he LOVES his steak. On our first visit to Burin, he got a regular steak entree, but his friend Toni suggested another steak entree there, so Miloš got it on the next visit. Then when I tried it, I also ended up ordering it the next time as well. (It honestly had one of the best sauces I had ever tried – ever.)
In January, I also tried one of Miloš’ favorite dishes – Čevapi. We ordered it to be delivered from one of the local restaurants. It comes with pieces of meat that can best be compared to little sausage links – but they are NOT sausage. It’s some special type of meat recipe/preparation. With it, comes chopped onions, a kind of red pepper paste, bread, and a dairy item called Kajmak, which is made from curdled milk. It wasn’t bad. But I’m thinking it’s one of those foods that a person ends up loving it because they grew up with it.
Miloš’ mom also made several meat dishes that were new to me. One was something they called Schnitzel, but it wasn’t a traditional schnitzel from the German speaking world. It was a kind of meat patty. Here’s an analogy – think of a crab cake, but made with beef. It has the meat and fillers, which is then shaped, breaded, and fried. It’s good. We also had something similar made with turkey meat. She made an excellent home-made meat sauce for pasta. (I’m used to pasta sauces in jars purchased at the store.)
One night, we had turkey meat that had been cooked in some kind of oil and seasonings – I think it had been slow roasted. It was really really good, and we had enough to take as leftovers to heat up later.
ALL THE REST:
There were a few staples of our dining menu. Every time we went to eat, Miloš’ mom or grandmother had made soup. It was very much the same kind of soup my grandmother (on Daddy’s side) used to make – home made chicken soup. They even used the same kind of little noodles that Oma used to use. Daddy still makes the actual soup that way, only he makes it with semolina dumplings.
One of the nights, we had a spinach dish. It was actually like a spinach puree. Not liquid-y enough to be soup, but not thick enough to be a paste. It was more the consistency of creamed spinach, but the leaves themselves had been completely pureed. It wasn’t bad – I DO like spinach, so it basically felt like eating a really thick spinach soup. Miloš ate his with mashed potatoes (I don’t like mashed potatoes) and a kind of yogurt drink.
On that note, let’s talk about this yogurt drink. Miloš likes to pour it not only on most of his food, but also really likes to drink it plain. It is SUPER thick – almost like heavy whipping cream. But it’s a plain yogurt concoction. I am not a huge fan – I don’t necessarily dislike it, I just don’t like it a great deal. My Croatian friend Bojana also really likes it too. I guess you have to grow up with it.
People here are also big pizza eaters, just like every where else. Although I guess since Croatia is so close to Italy, the people here like to think they have THE best pizza. Miloš would not admit to ANY pizza from the States being better than what they have in Croatia. I personally think pizza in NYC compares quite well, but I’m not coming from the place of national pride (on every level) that Miloš has for Croatia. His mom also makes a very delicious home-made pizza.
Then there’s a dish called Burek, which is like a cheesy strudel type of food. I have to say it’s pretty yummy – totally recommended!
Well, that’s kind of the basic intro for ya. And as in most countries, you’ll get variations based on what region you happen to be visiting. As for me, I’ve made myself hungry writing this, so I’m off to have a bite! 🙂