Croatian cuisine is heterogeneous and is known as a cuisine of the regions since every regions has its own distinct culinary traditions. Its roots date back to ancient times and the differences in the selection of foodstuffs and forms of cooking are most notable between those on the mainland and those in coastal regions. Mainland cuisine is more characterized by the earlier Slavic and the more recent contacts with neighboring cultures - Hungarian, Austrian and Turkish, using lard for cooking, and spices such as black pepper, paprika, and garlic. The coastal region bears the influences of the Greek, Roman and Illyrian, as well as of the later Mediterranean cuisine - Italian (especially Venetian) and French, using olive oil, and herbs and spices such as rosemary, sage, bay leaf, oregano, marjoram, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, lemon and orange rind. Peasant cooking traditions are based on imaginative variations of several basic ingredients (cereals, dairy products, meat, fish, vegetables) and cooking procedures (stewing, grilling, roasting, baking), while bourgeois cuisine involves more complicated procedures and use of selected herbs and spices. Charcuterie is part of Croatian tradition in all regions. Food and recipes from former Yugoslav countries are also popular in Croatia.
Croatian cuisine can be divided into a few regional cuisines (Istria, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Lika, Gorski Kotar, Zagorje, Međimurje, Podravina, Slavonija) which all have their specific cooking traditions, characteristic for the area and not necessarily well known in other parts of Croatia. Most dishes, however, can be found all across the country, with local variants. This is also why the varied cuisine of Croatia is called "cuisine of the regions".
Specialities from the grill are called s roštilja, those roasted on the spit s ražnja
pečeno means roasted
prženo means fried
pod pekom means that the dish has been put into a stone oven under a metal cover. The cook puts hot coals on the cover so that the meal is cooked slowly in its own juices. Specialties cooked pod pekom include lamb, veal, and octopus.
Pasta is one of the most popular food items in Croatian cuisine, especially in the region of Dalmatia. The so called manistra na pome = pasta with tomato sauce is a staple. The other popular sauces include creamy mushroom sauce, minced meat sauce and many others. Also, potato dough is popular, not only for making njoki (gnocchi), but also for making plum or cheese dumplings which are boiled, and then fried in breadcrumbs and butter.
Žganci - cornmeal dish in Slovenian and Northern Croatian cuisine, also known as Polenta (palenta, pura) in Istria and Dalmatia
Soup is an integral part of a meal in Croatia and no Sunday family meal or any special occasion will go without it. The most popular soups are broth based, with added pasta or semolina dumplings. They are usually light in order to leave space for the main course and dessert to follow. However, cream or roux based soups are also popular, and there are many local variations of traditional soups. In Dalmatia, one of the most loved ones is the fish soup with fish chunks, carrots and rice.
Croatia has two main wine regions: Continental (Kontinetalna) and Coastal (Primorska), which includes the islands. Each of the main regions is divided into sub-regions which are divided yet further into smaller vinogorje, (literally wine hills) and districts. Altogether, there are more than 300 geographically-defined wine-producing areas in Croatia. In parts of Croatia, wine, either red or white, is sometimes consumed mixed in approximately equal proportions with water.
Apart from the great abundance of imported international beers (Heineken, Tuborg, Gösser, Stella Artois, etc.), you will find some tasty home-brewn beers in Croatia. (Real fans need to know that the brewery in Split produces BavarianKaltenberg beer by licence of the original brewery in Germany.)
Regarding its water resources, Croatia has a leading position in Europe. Concerning water quality, Croatian water is greatly appreciated all over the world. Due to a lack of established industries there have also been no major incidents of water pollution.
Jamnica – Winner of the Paris AquaExpo for best mineral water of 2003