Croatian Food: Where to find the best oysters in Croatia
It might come as a surprise, but Croatia is a well-known destination for foodies –year after year, fresh seafood and excellent wines exceed the expectations of those who come to this little corner of the eastern Mediterranean. Oysters are considered one of the delicacies on offer and what is so special about the ones cultivated in Malostonski Bay is that they belong to an almost extinct species called the European oyster. Visitors are fascinated by the fact that it’s possible to eat them straight from the sea — the waters of the Adriatic are that clean!
Ston – where the best oysters in Croatia come from
Ston is a small coastal town on the Peljesac peninsula with medieval walls that encircle the town itself. The best oysters in Croatia come from here, along with the sea salt works that can be found in the vicinity. Filled with good restaurants, old architecture, stone houses and the longest fortifications in Europe, Ston is about a one-hour drive from Dubrovnik, making it a nice day trip from Croatia’s most popular destination.
The Dalmatian coast has a very long tradition of mariculture. Written chronicles dating back to ancient Roman times mention oyster farming in the area, using a more primitive version of the way it is done today. Records from the 17th-century provide details about the collection and sale of oysters, while companies dedicated to oyster cultivation started developing at the beginning of the 19th-century. The highest recognition for their work came at the 1936 World Exposition in London where oysters from Mali Ston Bay received the Grand Prix and the Gold Medal, however, during the Second World War, the majority of these companies went into bankruptcy and disappeared.
Rare European oysters
Today, shellfish cultivation in Mali Ston Bay is based on two species: the European Flat Oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the mussel (Mytilus galloprovinicialis). The area is among the few in the world where these so-called European oysters survived the pestilence that exterminated them in other parts of Europe. Oysters are at their fullest and most delicious in March. If you visit Ston around March 19th, you will have the opportunity to taste freshly-opened oysters, smelling of the sea, at seafood restaurants in Ston and Mali Ston. The Festival of Oysters each March is a gastronomic event where oysters and oyster dishes are served: oyster soup, oysters fritters, roasted oysters and fried or baked oysters that are accompanied by traditional Dalmatian songs and a glass of good local wine.
Ready to try the best oysters in Croatia?
Select Croatia gives you the opportunity to visit one of the oldest oyster farms in the area. Departing from Hodilje in a small boat, you pass by the small town of Mali Ston to reach the farm. Here, in the middle of the bay, surrounded by thousands of oysters ready for harvesting, your hosts will gather fresh oysters for you to sample on the spot, while explaining the process of “sea farming” in more detail. With a sharp knife, they will help you open the shell to reveal a pearly, smooth interior in which the fleshy part is nested. Then squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon to savor the freshest oysters the Adriatic Sea can offer!