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Food and Drink

Croatia - Food and Drink

Traditional dishes in Croatia have developed over centuries under the influence of its neighbours, peppered with an array of regional variations and surprises.

Meal Times In Croatia

At just about any hour from 9am until well into the night you will be able to find a cafe or restaurant serving a good range of food and drink.

Breakfast is normally served from 9 or 10 until noon, although families at home will eat earlier.

Lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day, served from noon onwards. Croatian families will gather at the weekend to enjoy lunch together. Some religious families will observe grace before eating, whilst others won’t; if you’re unsure, wait for others to start eating before you tuck in. If you are at someone else’s home, take a small portion to start with. Your host will offer you second and third portions regardless of what you have already eaten, and refusal may cause embarrassment.

In the early evening comes the opportunity to take a walk. In busy towns, at the harbourside or any other area where people come out to socialise and eat, there will be plenty of couples and families taking the air or greeting friends and acquaintances.

Dinner is late and traditionally lighter. Restaurants are at their busiest between 8.30pm and 10.30pm. Some will then close at 11pm, but most continue for an hour or more after that.

Croatia is building a strong reputation for its nightlife. There are quite a few spots where you can party until sunrise.

Attitudes To Smoking

Croatia banned smoking in public places in 1999, but social attitudes mean this is not comprehensively enforced. About one third of all adults living in Croatia smoke, and vaping is subject to the same legal restrictions as other legal restrictions. Restaurants are usually non-smoking venues, as are the majority of cafes, but nightclubs and bars will often have at least one area of the premises available for smokers. In practical terms, you need to make an assessment as you enter the premises, and take a cue from the presence of ashtrays or other smokers in the room.

How To Tip In Croatia

There isn’t a set culture around how much to tip in Croatia, but tipping is generally expected if you have received good service. This applies in restaurants, hairdressers, spas and taxis. Whether you decide to leave 10 percent or just round the bill up, the recipient will be happy. Wages are not high so the amount you leave makes a difference.

Restaurants sometimes add a cover charge to the bill, which should be displayed on the menu so that you are aware of it before your order. If a cover charge is included, you are not obliged to leave a further tip.

It’s now common practice in many countries around the world to add a tip electronically as you pay the bill by debit or credit card. However, even in 2018 in Croatia, it is still the case that most cafes and restaurants only accept cash, and even those who do accept card payments will rarely have machines set up to offer a tip, so try to keep some cash on you.

Breakfast In Croatia

Today, you will find plenty of hotels and homes in Croatia serving cereal and toast for breakfast.

If you are looking for something more traditional, try marenda. This is a platter of anchovies, tomatoes, cheese, ham, olives, and sometimes a regional or chef’s choice of other items. The ham will be a superior cured meat such as Istrian prosciutto, or a spicy salami known as kulen. The cheese could include paski sir, which is made from the milk of sheep who graze on the grass and herbs on the island of Pag.

Lunchtime In Croatia

Lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day, meaning sandwiches have not taken off as a popular lunchtime dish for Croatian people. Instead, hot dishes are the norm.

A stew of octopus, squid or meat mixed with potatoes and cooked under a terracotta lid is called peka. Fish stews can include a rich tomato sauce base with plenty of preservative vinegar added.

The Dalmatian dish of black risotto may look strange to expats as the squid ink turns the food black. However, with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, red wine and squid or cuttlefish topped with cheese and parsley, the delicious taste will win you over.

The white, quill-shaped pasta called fuži is combined with sauces, such as the white truffle of Istria mixed in to a cream sauce, or tomato-based sauces enriched by meat, garlic and herbs.

Beef and ox meat is used to create a range of dishes. These include thinly sliced carpaccio, salami, steak, soup and sauce ingredients to accompany pasta or gnocci.

Fresh mussels served in a wine and garlic sauce are popular throughout most of Europe, and Croatia is no exception.

Sweet Treats In Croatia

Fritule are no longer treats reserved for the holidays, but can be purchased throughout the year. These are fried pastries, similar to a doughnut, but with added flavours. Each region has its own specialities, with raisins or citrus peel a popular choice, but you can also buy alcohol-based flavours such as rakija.

Vegetarian Food In Croatia

Meat and fish is at the heart of traditional Croatian recipes, but vegetarians will not starve in the country.

Most restaurants will offer vegetarian options on their menus. Sometimes this will be limited to a choice of salads and breads, but the dishes will be fresh and full of flavour. Pasta and vegetable-based dishes are also easy to find. What you will have to check is that dishes which appear to be vegetable based, such as a bean soup, haven’t been cooked in a meat stock. The waiters in a cafe or restaurants will typically know their dishes well enough to detail the ingredients.

The percentage of Croatians who are vegetarian is unknown, but it is thought to be a low number that is growing. Meanwhile, Croatian family members who moved elsewhere and come home to visit or to stay permanently is growing, as is the number of expats drawn to Croatia. Non-meat eaters in these groups combine with international tourists to provide a healthy market of vegetarians looking to eat well. As a result, a number of well-known and respected vegetarian restaurants have sprung up, especially in cities such as Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik.

Vegan options are harder to find if you are eating out, but with a bit of imagination you can find enough to satisfy your hunger. Locally run family restaurants may even be happy to conjure up a simple vegan meal on request, especially if you are an expat who expresses interest in returning on a regular basis.

Eating vegetarian and vegan food at home in Croatia is simple. Thanks to Croatia’s warm climate, a whole range of fresh and local fruit and vegetables can be bought at the local market.

Alcoholic Drinks

Alcohol has a long tradition in Croatia. Bars and tavernas are all over the country, and the majority of the population drink alcohol on a regular basis.

There is a wide selection of beers to choose from. Local brands include Ozujsko and Karlovacko.

Wine is extremely popular. Local wines include Plavac, Mali, the robust red Teran and fruity Malvazija white.

When wine is made, the grape skins, pulp and seeds are left as waste after pressing. By the middle ages, these leftovers had been utilised to make grappa, now identified as a traditional Italian drink. In Croatia, they are used to make a strong alcoholic drink called rakija, which comes in a wide variety of flavours depending on the other ingredients added. It’s normal to enjoy a glass before or after a meal in the country.

Croatia has been attracting increasing numbers of tourists who want to party, and some resorts have become tailored to their needs by providing a thriving nightlife. Alongside the trendy settings and good music, these venues offer a modern, cosmopolitan range of cocktails.

So Much More To Explore

Croatia has long embraced different food textures, tastes and ingredients from the outside world and this continues today. Chefs are open to developing new dishes and styles as modern tastes change, working hard to keep businesses profitable in a low-cost environment. Meanwhile, local regions maintain their identity through the use of food and drink, making Croatia an interesting place to eat.

Read more about this country

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