Besides being renowned as a tourist destination with picturesque landscape, crystal clear beaches, pleasant climate, and magical hills, Istria has gained a reputation of a top gourmet destination for food and wine lovers. And it is no wonder. Istria prides in its food treasures – fresh seafood and vegetables, top quality olive oil, wine, Istrian prosciutto, goat cheeses and truffles. So, while visiting Istria make sure to indulge in Istria’s world-renowned cuisine and because you are about to experience some of the finest gastronomical experiences.
Tavern – The Istrian tradition of eating
In Istria, everywhere you go, you can find gourmet cooking with locally sourced ingredients. There is freshly caught fish and sea food, premium olive oil, pasta, cheese, wine and truffles – so what’s not to love? Accompanied by the signature Malvazija wines, Istria offers a myriad of delicious culinary works of art and beautiful gourmet spots. The first step towards entering an unforgettable culinary experience is vising a tavern, or konoba. Konoba was traditionally a cellar of the house with a long wooden table for gathering and a place where people would store their wine and rakija. In an Istrian tavern, time passes by more slowly. The chefs prepare food from recipes passed down to them from their grandmothers. Since they are mostly family-owned, the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed. A proper start to a gastronomical journey. And you won’t be disappointed. Most taverns use locally-grown, organic products, which guarantees one-of-a-kind experience of tastes. Some even cook only the fish and produce that is available to catch, i.e. find on that particular day. That is why some restaurants don’t even have menus. It doesn’t get more authentic than that. It’s a way to enjoy food they way people used to back in the old days. And the way it should be enjoyed – fresh, local and home-grown.
Culinary delights for all tastes
There are also restaurants where you can taste delicacies such as raw squids and scampi. These are the restaurants whose owners focus on the high quality of the ingredients in their cuisine and find their daily inspiration in the best seasonal ingredients. Meat lovers should try specialities made from boškarin, an indigenous Istrian longhorn cattle. And those with a sweet tooth will be very pleased with traditional Istrian desserts – fritula, kroštula and cukerančić. If you wish some nourishment, try a famous Istrian soup prepared with red wine, olive oil, salt, pepper and toasted white bread or maneštra – a thick soup prepared with potato, beans, cured meat and seasonal vegetables. Pasta lovers will delight in fuži – tube-shaped folded thin strips of pasta that are 3-5 cm long, pljukanci – traditional spindle-shaped pasta and ravioli – pasta dough with cheese, meat or walnut filling.
Truffle dishes that will delight you
“His Majesty, the truffle”, as it has been dubbed, is the ultimate gastronomic delight all the world-famous chefs agree on – truffle is at the very top of the gastronomic delicacies list. The Istrian white truffle is one of the most highly prized in the world today. This rare and expensive fungus grows in the fertile Istrian soil and was discovered by ancient Romans.
Truffle can be tasted in many forms and dishes, but some of the most loved are: traditional Istrian pasta in truffle sauce, tartufata, Istrian gnocchi with truffle cream, but also truffle honey and truffle cheese.
In Istrian gastronomy wine has one of the leading roles, but it comes naturally to combine the Mediterranean cuisine, one of the healthiest in the world, with red or white wine. Istrian Malvasia, Teran, Muscat of Momjan or Muscat Rose of Poreč are beautifully combined with fish, cheese, meat or desserts. Health benefits of wine are also well-known – moderate wine consumption helps against aging, improves memory, boosts the immune system and has a prevents many diseases. Some sorts are even said to improve digestion and help you lose weight.
Due to Istria’s rich history, there are a lot of Austrian, German, Slovenian and predominantly Italian cultural influences that are preserved in the language, and most of all, seen in the cuisine.
Allow yourself to be taken into some more tranquil times and discover all the secrets of Istrian gastronomy. Simply explore inland Istria and you will come across a tavern that will amaze you and that you will come back over and over again.