Dalmatian specialties made for feasting on
August, 14 2019
I was on holiday in Dalmatia last year, where I tasted – among other delicacies – a very special risotto and a tasty sheep’s cheese. I still enjoy remembering eating these specialties – not to be missed if you’re visiting Dalmatia – and so I wanted to share them with you!
A little bit of a warning: your mouth may start watering while you are reading this article, and you may be booking yourself on the next available flight to Croatia.
The best cheese in Croatia
If you’re visiting the north of Dalmatia on holiday, then a visit to the island of Pag is a must. Why? Because this is where you can taste the delicious sheep’s cheese Paški Sir. There are two varieties: a younger cheese with a mild aroma, and a mature cheese which is harder, darker and a bit spicier. Both are irresistible – assuming you like cheese.
I can hear you thinking…what makes this particular sheep’s cheese different from other sheep’s cheeses? The answer lies in what the sheep eat. They graze on pastures with very little grass, but lots of wild herbs. These herbs are covered with a layer of salt from the sea brought by a north-eastern sea breeze. The sheep eat the salt-covered herbs, which gives their milk a particular flavour, and of course that gives the cheese its own particular flavour.
If you drive around the island, you’ll see signs advertising delicious, homemade Paški Sir everywhere. I finally tried it during a cheese tasting in the centre of Pag at the Trapula Wine & Cheese Bar. The terrace has a beautiful view of the Basilica of St. Maria, and you can enjoy this unique sheep’s cheese while taking in that view.
Read more: Ton & Lucia in Zadar: here are our tips!
Because the sheep and lambs take in quite a lot of sea salt, it’s not just the cheese on Pag that has a particular taste, but the meat too. It is even said that lamb from Pag is the tastiest in Europe!
So you should definitely try a nice piece of lamb if you’re on the island of Pag – or anywhere else in Dalmatia. I tried the aromatic meat in Zadar at the Harbor Cookhouse & Club and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was finished way too fast!
This is one of those incredible dishes that you can eat in many places in Dalmatia and the flavours will continue to surprise you; brudet, a traditional dish! It’s also sometimes called brujet or brodet. There are many different variations, but the original recipe from Dalmatia is a flavourful stew with trout, crab and shrimp, vegetables, all in a tomato-based sauce. There’s also a vegetarian version, the so-called falši. This version contains many different vegetables, spices, and… a stone from the sea! This is meant to give the dish extra flavour.
They love stews in Dalmatia. So as well as the fish stew, they also make lots of meat stews, including pasticada. It’s a dish generally reserved for special occasions. But you can find it on the menu in some restaurants, especially in the south of Dalmatia. Pasticada is usually made with veal, stewed in a beef broth gravy, with vegetables and red wine. It’s served with fresh gnocchi. You’ll be licking your fingers clean!
Pig on a spit
If you are touring around Dalmatia, you’ll frequently see a pig roasting on a spit at restaurants on the side of the road. They put the pig on the spit in the morning and then it’s smoked all day long. Then in the evening, you can enjoy a tender piece of pork. A pig on a spit like this can seem a bit shocking at first – particularly for children. But the taste will make up for a lot. The legs of the smoked pig are often made into pršut – this ham is quite similar to Italian prosciutto. Nice with a glass of wine on a terrace or at the campsite in the evening.
Another tasty bite is Crni rižot – a black risotto made with squid. It may look a little unappetizing because it’s pitch black, but it is rich in taste. The risotto is very cream, the squid is soft, and you’ll taste a hint of garlic too. The risotto owes its black colour to the squid ink and that’s also what gives it its unique umami taste.
Drinks in Dalmatia
And of course you’ll need something to drink with all of these local dishes! Try a sip of Marasquin cherry liqueur, or try one of the many Dalmatian wines. Do you want to try something really local? Then you should ask the restaurant if they have Bikla or Smutica. It’s a mix of red wine and goats or cow’s milk. I didn’t dare, but perhaps you’ll give it a try?
And of course after all that food it’s important to take a little exercise! So I went for a hike in the Paklenica National Park. I’d definitely recommend it.