CROATIAN CUISINE is heterogeneous, and is therefore known as "the cuisine of regions". Its modern roots date back to Proto-Slavic and ancient periods and the differences in the selection of foodstuffs and forms of cooking are most notable between those on the mainland and those in coastal regions. Mainland cuisine is more characterized by the earlier Proto-Slavic and the more recent contacts with the more famous gastronomic orders of today - Hungarian, Viennese and Turkish - while the coastal region bears the influences of the Greek, Roman and Illyrian, as well as of the later Mediterranean cuisine - Italian and French.
Every holiday has its typical dish. Pork and potato stew is eaten on pilgrimages and at fairs; cod is prepared for Christmas Eve and Good Friday; pork is eaten on New Year s Day; doughnuts are an inseparable part of carnival festivities, and in the south they prepare a similar fried sweet dish known as hrostule. Ham and boiled eggs with green vegetables are served at Easter, while desserts comprise traditional cakes (e.g. pinca). Kulen (hot-pepper flavoured sausage) at harvest time, goose for St. Martin s Day, turkey and other fowl, as well as sarma (meat-stuffed cabbage leaves), are served on Christmas Day. At weddings, a variety of dishes with dozens of cakes and biscuits are served, including breskvice, shortbread bear paws, gingerbread biscuits, fritule - plain fritters, etc.
The favourite meals of very many people on all occasions include spit-roasted lamb and suckling pig, grilled fish, calamari cooked in various ways, barbecue dishes - raznjici, cevapcici and mixed grill - prosciutto and sheep’s cheese, or smoked ham and cottage cheese with sour cream, fish stew, venison.
The cuisine of Istria and the Kvarner regions represents a special Croatian style of cooking, a blend of inland and coastal. These regions are rich in excellent fish and seafood, most notable among them being found in the northern Adriatic: scampi (prawns), calamari and shellfish from the Limski Kanal (Fiord). After an excellent prosciutto, and cheese and olives, many traditional wine cellars offer fish soup, fish stew, boiled prawns, black and white frutti di mare risotto, as well as other dishes typical of the central part of the Istrian peninsula - traditional wine soup, ragout (jota) similar to Italian minestrone (manistra, menestra, menestra), and also pasta and risotto dishes cooked with the famous truffles of the region - a self-sown precious mushroom species, unearthed by specially trained dogs and pigs; these fungi have the reputation of containing aphrodisiac properties.
The excellent Istrian wines include Malmsey of Buje, Cabernet of Porec, Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Terrano of Buzet, Zlahtina of Vrbnik, and sparkling wines - Bakarska Vodica, etc. Fine restaurants abound in Istria, especially on the Opatija, Crikvenica, Rovinj and Porec littorals, both in the interior and on the islands.