Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

What is worth eating in eastern Croatia?

Located in the east of Croatia, it is famous for viticulture, and its undeniable advantage is nature – picturesque idyllic landscapes, peace, natural rhythm of life still not subordinated to the big tourist business. Some call these areas the “Croatian Bieszczady Mountains”, others even compare them to the Amazon, because Sławonia is located in the valleys of the great rivers Sava, Drawa and Danube.

It is a paradise for bird watchers, lovers of active recreation and people looking for contact with authentic local tradition and culture. (285 species of birds), which are best visited by boat. Papuk Nature Park is home to huge beech trees, ancient oaks, picturesque waterfalls, and an interesting geopark. There is no shortage of interesting monuments here, such as the fortress in Osjek, but the pleasure that cannot be denied is the delights of the Slavonian table. What is worth eating in Sławonia?

Most tourists visiting Croatia had the opportunity to taste Istrian prsut, a traditional cold meat preserved with sea salt and dried in the sea winds, with a taste reminiscent of Parma ham. In Slavonia, located far from the sea, other cold meat techniques were developed, and their crowning achievement is kulen.

– It's a pork sausage prepared once a year. Only one kulen is made from one pig. The best cuts of meat are selected, and the pig is amazing, says Bartek Kieżun, a culinary expert and traveler. Pigs (preferably of the Mangulica and Black Slavonian breeds) should weigh at least 180 kg and be bred on a special diet – they are grazed in groves and forests, where they eat acorns of English oak trees.

Carefully selected pieces of meat are combined with ground pepper (sweet and hot), garlic and salt. The right proportions are crucial here to obtain the right spicy flavor, but not too spicy. The meat should be cut by hand and the prepared mass is filled into properly prepared, cleaned intestinal fragments. Then the meat is salted (five days), smoked (one month), and finally matured in cool, airy rooms (about half a year).

The best morsels go to the kulen, and the best pieces are selected from the rest. – They are used to create kulen's younger sister, kulenowa seka – explains Bartek Kieżun. The production process is similar, but this time thinner intestines will be used (kulen is a thick sausage). We can get kulenowa seka at more affordable prices.

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Yes, this one is literally called “torn pants” and proves that the tradition of the region includes not only good cuisine, but also a sense of humor. Torn gace are yeast pancakes with a hole in the middle, deep fried, similar in taste and consistency to Hungarian langos. They were traditionally served during Advent and Carnival. They can be eaten sweet, with powdered sugar, jam, honey, cream or salty.

The Croatian coast is famous for its cuisine rich in fish and seafood, but . However, freshwater fish dishes dominate in this region, and the flagship delicacy is Fiš paprikaš, fish paprykarz. – It should be simmered with at least two species of fish. The roots of this dish are German, and there is also a clear Hungarian influence – explains Bartek Kieżun.

Fish (e.g. carp, zander, catfish, pike) are generously seasoned with sweet and hot peppers, onion, garlic, bay leaf are added, poured with white wine and cooked, preferably in a copper pot, over the fire. Paprykarz is served with bread or dumplings, necessarily accompanied by white wine.

At first glance, it may look like an ordinary cherry pie, but the taste is unique. This is a tweaked version of strudel. The base is sheets of thin dough used for classic apple strudel, but embedded in a mass of semolina swollen in yogurt. The cherry filling complements the taste.

Sławonia is a wine region, so connoisseurs can count on many tastings. The famous Sławno oaks used to make barrels in which wine matures also come from here. Primarily white wine is produced here, mainly from the Graševina variety, also known as Welschriesling, Laski Riesling, Italian Riesling, Olasz Riesling or thymus. These wines go perfectly with local fish dishes. The most famous vineyards can be found near the village of Kutjevo.

Late harvests produce sweet wines perfect for desserts. Chardonnay and Traminer are also popular varieties. Red wines may not be the first association that comes to mind in Sławonia, but they are also produced here. The main varieties used are Frankovka and Pinot Noir. In Slavonia, as in the entire Balkans, rakija is the most popular among slightly stronger drinks. Excellent fruit-based distillates are produced here (primarily plum brandy), but also honey (medovka) and herbs. There will certainly be plenty of opportunities for tasting.