Thanks to my current occupation, as well as some part time jobs during the last years, I was lucky to dine in many different restaurants in Istria. And thanks to my (mostly grandfather's senior) relatives, I was lucky enough to taste wonderful Istrian home-made food. We might say I’m an average consumer and from that perspective I'm going to explain the basics of what Istrian cuisine has to offer, so you can easily find your way on the list from an Istrian tavern menu.
The cuisine of this peninsula has developed, as many others, on basis of currently available groceries. The land here wasn't as arable as it is in the continent, but still some agricultural crops grow here better than in other parts. Traditional farm plants prevailing in inner Istria are wheat and corn, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. Residents of the coastal area often had lots of fish and seafood on their plates and their eating habits were affected by Italian cuisine. So, in short, Istrian gastronomy is divided into two main sub-categories – continental and coastal – and, of course, their combination.
I guess the housewives had to be imaginative and resourceful in the times past, considering they were quite limited in ingredients. Thanks to that, today we have wonderful yet simple continental Istrian meals. This is the list of my favorite dishes: maneštra (similar to Italian minestrone), jota (combination of maneštra and cabbage), fuži, njoki, pasutice, pljukanci (variations of pasta), kapuz (cabbage) in various ways, šugo (gravy made of chicken, beef and native Istrian ox boškarin), eggs with many yummy additions and of course, famous Istrian supa (salty and peppery wine with bread). If you have friends living by the coastal Istrian area, such as i do, you will realize how many different treats you can enjoy right out of the Adriatic – we all know about the white and blue fish, but there are also crabs, squid, clamshells (scallop, mussels, oysters...) and they’re at their best paired with rice, pasta, potatoes and, accordingly, wines.
My favorite white wine is muscat, an indigenous variety in Istria that goes well with desserts. Combined with fish I would recommend malvasia, and with meat you should taste one of the red Istrian wines such as teran, merlot or refosco. When talking about wines, Istria was always a top region for vine and olive growing. If you can spare some time, do search for quality wines and supreme olive oils throughout Wine and Olive Oil Roads of Istria. This will be a pleasant and fun experience and also a great souvenir!
In the end, it would be unfair not to mention another important aspect of Istrian nurture – different ingredients were also found in nature during the past. Locals, including myself, still enjoy searching for seasonal wild plants just like they did centuries earlier. In time, this costless garnishing has actually become quite costly. Today you have to receive a state’s permission in order to enjoy this venture. One of most appreciated among them is asparagus: for a tiny one-person bundle you'll pay more than 5 euro and have to combine it with at least three eggs in order to have a feeling that you actually ate something :) Mushrooms are also one of nature’s gifts to us. I leave the truffle hunting to the experts who know how to search for this extremely costly delicacy. Personally, I like searching for a little less costly yellow chanterelle. If you find yourself strolling by the sea, you will surely find Mediterranean herbs such as fennel, rosemary, basil or aromatic plants lavender and immortelle spreading lovely fragrances
Dobar tek! – Enjoy your meal!