Croatia has some of its food products protected at both a national and European level, their status designated by their unique place of origin. Soparnik (Poljički Soparnik) is just one of them.
From the deep-flavoured red wine grown on the southerly coast and brilliant whites made more northerly and inland to some of the best prosciutto and olive oil you will ever try, quite a bit of produce from small Croatia punches above its weight on the global stage. Meals of fresh fish and seafood, eaten in sight of a stunning seaside sunset, grand and smokey barbeques, succulent whole lamb roasted on a spit and the rustic theatre of peka are just some of the memorable gastronomic treats experienced by visitors to the country. But, not many outside Croatia will ever tell you of an unforgettable vegetarian and Croatian meal they had while here.
Truth be told, although Croats grow and eat lots of vegetables, they're not well known for vegetarian meals. Catering for vegetarian visitors has improved dramatically over the last decade, especially in seaside restaurants. But, further inland, your choice can frequently be limited to the non-meat, pastry-heavy offer of the nearest bakery, often (Bosnian/Turkish) burek. Although slightly more upscale, unless you're of Croatian descent and your palette unconsciously governed in some way by patriotism, there's no way you're going to get excited by the culinary non-event that is štrukli.
No repute of an unforgettable vegetarian meal ever travels simply because very few visitors ever experience Croatia's greatest vegetarian creation. It is called soparnik and not only is it Croatia's best vegetarian treat, but it is also arguably the country's best, most-flavoursome and most unique snack of all.
Unlike the excessive amounts of pastry that surround or base almost everything you can buy in a Croatian bakery, soparnik has just two very thin layers of pastry sitting atop and below its filling. Traditionally baked in a huge, circular portion inside a giant peka or the kind of oven used to make proper pizza, it looks quite dainty and delicate when cut into diamond-shaped portions. But, it packs a powerful punch of flavour. Its filling is comprised of the spinach-like leaves of ubiquitously-used chard blitva, onions, parsley and garlic (the latter sometimes included in the filling or otherwise sprinkled on top after its baking, alongside a brushing of olive oil).
The reason it is rarely tried by visitors is that it's tough to make and the experts at doing so come from a seldom-visited part of inland Dalmatia. It comes from the Poljica area, near Omiš and is a truly unique Croatian specialty. If you only try one pastry dish while in Croatia (and, if you can find it), it should definitely be the incredible soparnik.
Click here to find out what European recognition does for Croatian produce and see all of Croatia's best delicacies which are protected