Croatia…to most people the name of this country will conjure up images of kilometres of beautiful coastline, brilliant beaches and bays, and sparkling azure water – the perfect place to go for a beach holiday. But lovely Croatia is not just about beaches and the ocean, and visitors will be delighted to discover that Croatia, and the Istria Peninsula in particular, is also home to a particularly good history of gastronomy. Istria is most famous for the wonderful truffles that come from the Motovun forests, but there is still more…! The region is also a producer of excellent Olive Oil and several Istrian wines that are starting to make a name for themselves in the international marketplace. Add to these the other elements of this very healthy Mediterranean diet, such as air-dried Istrian prosciutto (cured ham) and the enormous variety of seafood which is readily available all along the coast, and you have all the elements of a feast!
Truffles: In Istria, the truffle (tartufi) is king! In fact, the very largest truffle ever found in the world came from this region and weighed over 1.3kg! The most sought-after truffle is the more elusive white truffle, but both white and black truffles are eagerly “hunted” from late summer to early winter, using specially trained sniffer dogs or pigs to indicate where these gems are hiding beneath the soil in the Motovun forests. To learn all there is to know about truffles and to taste some of the best truffle dishes, you should try to visit Istria when one of the truffle festivals is on, usually during October and November.
Olive Oil: Istrian Olive Oil has been produced in the region for hundreds of years, since Roman times, and has a delightful delicate flavour, making it especially suitable to add to other Mediterranean foods to enhance, rather than over-power. Beautiful Olive Oils are produced all over Istria, but predominantly in the north western parts, and the best way to find your particular favourite oil would be to go on an Olive-Oil tasting tour.
Wine: What would good food be like without a good wine to accompany it? Luckily, in Istria you need not worry, as there is plenty of great wine to enjoy with your food. Wine has also been produced in Istria for centuries, since the Romans began the tradition. Recently wine-producing methods have been modernized and Istrian wines are ready to make their mark internationally. It is believed that the unique soil found in Istria is responsible for the quality of the delicious Malvazija Whites and rich Teran Reds produced here. The best way to find your personal favourites is to get onto the wine-roads and taste, taste, taste!
Grilled meats and fishes.
Once you are in Istria you will soon discover that the dishes are mostly cooked according the Mediterranean tradition that demands for grilling. Huge fireplaces with spit roast facility are very common in Croatia. In fact along busy road it is not uncommon to see the grilling of whole pigs that will be served at the nearby restaurant. But the grill is not reserved for meat you can eat BBQ ordada (sea bream), and sardelle (sardines), and as the Croatian will say: Adriatic fish is the best. Enjoy.
Some Traditional Istrian Dishes to Try:
Before you leave you have to try some of the delicious specialities of the region: Beautiful Prsut ( Istrian air-dried prosciutto) is often served thinly sliced with some of the very traditional local sheep cheese as a starter…just wonderful accompanied by a glass of Malvazija. One of the most popular ways of enjoying the fabulous truffles is to grate some fresh truffle over eggs, Pasta or a grilled steak; the latter should be teamed with a glass of Teran, for a true taste of Istria. Also very popular is fresh shell fish of all descriptions and calamari. All of these are often combined in a seafood stew or added to a risotto – famous black risotto includes squid- ink and is a delicious speciality. Enjoy with a fruity Malvazija. Salute!