by Bozidar Jukic
Croatian cuisine relies heavily on the traditional food products of our villages. Basically, this is true for majority of national cuisines of Europe, but in Croatia many of the villages still produce these food products using traditional methods. Many of these have made it to the menus of mainstream restaurants and some have become quite popular with the locals and tourists alike.
Arguably, the champion of traditional food products in Croatia is Dalmatian Prosciutto or Prsut as the Croatian translation goes. Prsut is smoked cured ham, dried traditionally with the help of strong dry wind called Bora. This is one item that went from being produced and sold in very small quantities and only eaten for special occasions, to being offered on a large scale in restaurants, supermarkets, wine bars, etc. As it often happens, increased demand brought forth mass production and often times Prsut on offer is not as good as its price would suggest. Today, it gets very difficult to get a good quality Prsut and if you ever have a chance of getting a great one, spare no cost. It’s an absolutely mouth watering cured meat product.
However, one other food item is seriously threatening the position of Prsut in the hearts and minds of meat eaters across the country. From regions of Slavonia and Baranja comes their pride and joy – Kulen. Kulen (or Kulin) is a spicy smoke dried sausage traditionally made with pig intestine and stuffed with selected pig meat and various spices, paprika being the most prominent one. Popularity of Kulen among the Croatians is nothing new, especially in the continental part of the country. However, the efforts to protect Kulen as Croatian traditional product have done their part in making everybody more aware of the fact this popular food went unnoticed for most part by the restaurants and similar hospitality businesses offering traditional cuisine. In the years to come we can expect more and more restaurant menus offering this spicy delicacy and I can tell you as a restaruant manager, the price of Kulen is going up in the past few years like crazy. The same problems of finding good quality product apply to Kulen and well as to Prsut, so make sure to shop around before finding the real deal.
By now you have realised we love pork in Croatia. Many will find this surprising as most of the images of this country that are popular around the world include coastline and the islands. Make no mistake about it, we are a nation of serious meat eaters and with this in mind, this country has a lot to offer to meat lovers from all over the world. Make sure to try the best of the coastal Croatia and Continental Croatia as well, and don’t be afraid to explore. Along with Kulen and Prosciutto, there are many other meat wonders to explore, from various sausages in the northwest, to pancetta and other cured meats in the south. For an adventurous meat lover, Croatia might be a perfect travel destination.