Here in Zagreb we’re at the crossroads of a number of culinary influences. For centuries, this was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire so it’s natural that the Germanic influence is strongest in cooking as in language (you’ll hear plenty of loan words in the local dialect). However, the paprika-infused cooking of Hungary is not far away, and as road networks improve, the travelling time from the coast is ever shorter. Zagreb is a magnet for immigrants from across the country (and beyond), who bring with them fresh approaches to cooking which are adopted with enthusiasm by the locals.
But what is the real Zagreb, in culinary terms? Here are a few examples.
Probably the best known dishes which truly represent Zagreb are purica s mlincima (turkey roast with sheets of baked pasta-like dough that soak up the tasty juices), and štrukli (pasta parcels of soft young cheese boiled and baked in the oven). Then there’s zagrebački odrezak, fried breaded pork stuffed with ham and cheese which, though popular, probably doesn’t quite count as traditional food, but can be worth trying for the stunningly sized portions.
Something you might find on lunchtime menus is eingemachtes (often corrupted to ajngemachtes in Croatian, or named more correctly ujušak. This is an all-in-one meal usually made with chicken meat and offal cooked into a thick and tasty soup with root vegetables and dumplings. Then there’s špek fileki, a hearty stew of tripe cooked with smoked bacon (that’s the špek bit), another lunchtime favourite, especially with the menfolk.
Gwyneth Paltrow would certainly raise an eyebrow or two if you served her with granadirmaš (or grantirmarš, grenadier): boiled potatoes and pasta mixed with onion and bacon cooked in pork dripping, often served with fried breaded meat. An equally carbohydrate-laden treat is ajnpren juha (or prežgana juha) – a roux of flour or oil and fat cooked with water with an egg added at the end. Not only was this nourishing food during tough economic times, it is still reputed to cure a dodgy tummy.
You can try these foods in Zagreb’s traditional-style restaurants – see our Restaurants pages for listings. Or if you’d like to roast a turkey at home, we can recommend locally-reared heritage turkeys from “Puran zagorskih brega”, which you can order on (+385-49) 32 90 66.