If there is one product that typifies Zagreb, then it is štrukli – dough, rolled and prepared in a specific way and filled with cream and cheese. Here we talk about its age-old tradition, and ways of preparation.
The humble but precious štrukli has seen proud Croats fight its corner with the Eurocrats in Brussels. The Ministry of Culture had to proclaim this traditional dish of rolled dough, fresh cow’s cheese, eggs and cream a cultural icon.
Is štrukli an original Croatian dish or is this culinary delight from Zagorje and Zagreb merely derivative of Austrian strudel and Turkish borek? Also comprised of rolled dough, these foreign dishes, here known as strudli and burek, are well known to all. They are also delicious when filled with cheese – although strudel also goes well with apple, pumpkins, spinach, meat, potatoes or mushrooms. Štrukli provides evidence of the gastronomic fusion in the Croatian kitchen thanks to the influences of Viennese, Hungarian, Italian and Turkish cuisines. Yet the taste and texture of štrukli are more important than its provenance.
Many have tried strudel and burek in Central Europe to the Middle East. But try štrukli in Zagreb and you will never have tasted a better dish of its kind – cooked or baked, sweet or salty, in soup or with poppy seed, pumpkin or spinach.
In a straw poll of visiting rock musicians, looked after in the best restaurants around the world – and met for dinner by this writer here in Zagreb – the reaction is invariably the same. Taken to try štrukli in a traditional local restaurant, they are always impressed by the gentle taste of the soft dough, creamy cheese, the eggs and sour-cream sauce. The similarity with strudel and burek isn’t generally perceived, at least not at first. High praise is usually quickly forthcoming.
Where to eat štrukli
Many venues pride themselves on their štrukli, but the kitchen at the landmark Regent Esplanade hotel provides some of the best – if not the best – in town. The more rustic Baltazar also serves up a mean štrukli.
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