Food in translation – Croatia
Last night we spent the evening looking around Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia, a hubbub of tourists, gelato shops, history and locals getting on with their lives. We were both very thirsty, having walked for several kilometres during the day in the Plitvice National Park (which deserves its own post), so our focus was mostly on drinking rather than on food.
Nevertheless, we were convinced by a woman waving a menu that we should eat at Korta (Pljana G. Ninskog 3 – should anyone wish to follow in our footsteps), which specialised in Dalmatian food. As we were both perusing the menu, now with some water (and beer: Točeno Pivo and San Servolo Crveno) down our throats, it was interesting how unethused my husband was by the food choices.
Maybe we should just have a pizza?” he suggested.
This was not so much about his unadventurous nature – he is probably the most adventurous and rule-breaking person I know – but more about how important words are on the menu. The flavours of food just seem to be lost in translation. The local delicacy is something called “pašticada”, which can be done with meat or fish (our menu suggested tuna). Essentially this is a stew of sorts, cooked in wine and spices and served with gnocchi. However, on the menu it just sounded like an average dish and it took a little convincing to order it.
The other dish we chose was “punjeni njoki”, which was gnocchi stuffed with scampi, on top of which were tiny lobster-like creatures (they couldn’t qualify as lobsters, they were just too tiny). The waiter told us it was his favourite dish and when we tasted it, we knew why. But yet again, it only sounded tasty once he described it. When it arrived, this rich garlicky tomato concoction had us virtually licking the pot. The waiter’s comment was “I see you liked the food?”
Over our years of travelling, I have realised that you can’t really trust the translated version of the menu, and our night in Split was just another example of this. We’ve had instances in China of chicken including body parts we were not accustomed to – like the claws, for example, and other times when our choices have left us hungry when the results have been, frankly, inedible. Last night’s Dalmatian food, however, proved a lovely surprise.
We were even too satiated to buy the local ice cream we’d promised ourselves for dessert.
What food do you recommend in Croatia? We’re still travelling for another week…