Vegetarian food for you – to satiate the hunger pangs…
We have struggled for vegetarian food in many countries. Our biggest tussle was in the Arctic region of Sweden, when we craved hot vegetarian food in winter. Next on the list was Jordan, where people did not understand the concept of vegetarianism. ‘Why would you not want to eat the tender meat of a young calf?’, they asked us. ‘We are vegetarian, by choice’ was our revert, to which the shrugged. I am sure they thought that we had lost our marbles!
We weren’t expecting the paths to our stomach to be paved smoothly before landing in Croatia. Mentally, we were all set to hit the local grocery store, buy some fresh greens and toss a pasta at home. We had planned that most lunches would comprise of a bottle of wine or juice, milkshake, some cake and a sandwich that we would stack up our room. Well, ten days in Croatia and we did none of that! Neither Ankur nor I went close of a stove or even lifted a knife to chop a tomato – thanks to the numerous vegetarian options available across the entire country. Not only was vegetarianism a smooth ride, it was also a sumptuous ride!
Here is a cheat sheet for our vegetarian friends, highlighting our favourite vegetarian eats in Croatia:
Bakes and Pastries
The Croats are great bakers. While their breads are good, their pastries are even better. And when I say ‘pastry’, I don’t mean the sweet and creamy ones. I mean the savoury and cheesy ones! Most bakeries open early in the morning (some as early as 4am!) and have freshly baked pastries stuffed with cheese or with spinach and cheese. While Ankur isn’t a big cheese fan, I would get one pastry packed every morning to serve me as breakfast or lunch during the day. Another breakfast treat that we enjoyed picking up from the bakeries or the restaurants was the croissants – butter or chocolate filled, both were equally delightful.
While the bakery products are best obtained from the local baker, the super market ‘Konzum’ also had a baker’s counter that offered the same. In either of these places, a pastry cost us approximately KN10 to KN12.
We had never expected Croatia to have so many pizzerias – were we in Italy? Well, Italy and Croatia are separated by the Adriatic Sea. The Roman empire has left it’s mark on the country – history, architecture, culture and obviously, food. There were pizzerias selling pizza slices and then, there were those offering a sit down experience. Most places had at least two of the following three pizza options available: Margherita, Vegetable and/or Mushroom. Ankur loves mushrooms and was a happy soul biting into his slice of ‘Funghi Pizza’.
Eating pizza slices is also a back packers trick to minimising expense on food, without compromising on quality. In the touristy cities of Dubrovnik and Hvar, each pizza slice cost ~KN15, while in Split, Zadar and Zagreb, each pizza slice cost ~KN10.
Pastas and pizzas go hand in hand – at least in Croatia. There are plenty of spaghetterias dotting tourist locations, with each of them having at least three to five vegetarian options. Most of them claim that they use fresh pasta, which is rolled out every morning. We would second the claim as the pasta tasted fresh, especially the gnocchi and ravioli. Ordering a vegetarian pasta was fairly simple – just pick your pasta from one page of the menu and the sauce from another! Pesto Genoese, Arabiatta, Bechamel – whatever your choice maybe – it would be on the menu.
Across cities, we observed that the pasta portions were generous – there were times we got the left overs packed by next day’s breakfast as well! A pasta dish typically cost KN60-KN100 in a nice al-fresco dining place.
Fruits: Every town centre in Croatia has a fresh fruit and vegetable market that opens in the morning at about 8 am and winds up by 2 pm or so. We loved buying fruits from here, especially the berries and the figs. I would always end up straying from food to souvenirs – I can’t kill the shopper in me, can I?
Salads and Grills
Sauntering through the market will give you a sense of the fresh produce that Croatia has to offer and the next time in a restaurant, you will want to order a salad. The Croat chefs definitely do justice to the produce. Go ahead, place and order for a salad or a plate of grilled vegetables.
This is one little space that Ankur stays away from. However, I can nibble into an igloo made of mozzarella and live in it. Local cheese produced in Pag is a speciality in Croatia. My favourite were the mozzarella and burrata balls, served with tomato, basil and extra virgin olive oil. I kept aside any and every diet and sinned on the delicious cheese and would encourage everyone to do so. I even managed to awaken Ankur’s taste buds to sample some fresh bufala mozzarella; trust me, it is an achievement!
I think every fifth eating joint in Croatia would be an ice cream parlour. The Croats claim that their ice-cream can give the Italian gelato a run for its money. We have not been to Italy as yet and cannot comment on that statement. However, there is no denying that Croats have awesome ice cream. We ate at least three ice creams each, every day. The flavours that you can choose from are different in different parlours – coffee & whiskey, orange, raw banana – the list goes on and includes the traditional flavours as well. Our favourite flavour, which was upto the mark in every ice cream parlour was vanilla!
Ice cream tasting was interesting – lots of parlours do not let you taste more than one flavour before letting you decide whether you want one! Ankur tried the berry ice cream and did not like it. So, he went ahead with his usual choice – banana. Little did he know that it was ‘raw banana’! Neither could he finish it, not could I – we tossed it in the dustbin!
In Dubrovnik and Hvar – the expensive cities, a single scoop cost us ~KN10 – KN12, while in Zadar and Zagreb it cost us ~ KN7 – KN8.
We were told that the sea food in Croatia is outstanding. We saw people eating buckets full of mussels while we sat on the next table and nibbled on our freshly baked pizza! If Croatia is a sea-food lovers paradise, it is an equal paradise for us vegetarians – a smooth road from the restaurant kitchen to your stomach, giving your taste buds a joy ride en-route! Bon appetit!
As always… send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!