Delicacy of delicacies – Adriatic shrimp

The summer hustle and bustle and the sea state of mind awaken the hidden foodies in all of us. The desire to try, explore or simply enjoy are the things that make a true hedonist. And you need a dash of hedonism to discover the magnificent tale of Adriatic shrimps. Shrimp, the most popular crustaceans in gastronomy, were a frequent source of inspiration for cooks who came up with numerous recipes. When talking about Adriatic shrimp, which are increasingly becoming a rare sight in fishing trawls, then a certain amount of awe is needed every time they are prepared and tasted.

Image author: Maja Danica Pečanić, izvor: HTZ

The term shrimp refers to marine crustaceans that inhabit lesser depths and can be found in silty seabeds. In the Adriatic, they’re caught near the remote island of Jabuka, Žirje in the Šibenik archipelago, in the Velebit Channel and all the way from Zadar and Novograd sea to Kvarner. Shrimp are caught all year round, but the best specimens are caught from May to late July. Adriatic shrimp are sought after in gastronomy due to their pronounced and intense flavour, quality meat and a thin shell. All of these distinctive feature are a result of a unique microclimate, clean sea and specific habitat characteristics.Image author: Ivo Biočina/HTZ

Depending on their size, the shrimp are separated and decided on how to go about preparing them. Larger specimens are most often grilled or simply briskly fried in a pan with a bit of white wine. If you ask the locals and fishermen, shrimp are best served raw, cleaned on the spot and with just a drops of lemon or orange juice. The sweet shrimp meat is excellent when paired with quite a few ingredients such as: strawberries, apples, melons, courgettes, broccoli, asparagus, different kinds of cheese and you can serve them with just about any sauce that springs to your mind. Shrimp can be used to prepare pasta, risottos, soups, broths, they can be battered. Only the sky is the limit when it comes to using your imagination.

Due to its exceptional quality, the Kvarner shrimp stands out in the crowd of shrimp and authentic local ingredients. A delicacy of delicacies, the Kvarner shrimp are an Adriatic rarity of exceptional culinary value which has certainly been recognised among well-educated global foodies. And because of being so popular and enjoying a royal status, they are becoming an increasingly rare and expensive ingredient whose conservation should definitely rank high on our agenda.Image author: Božidar Pezelj/HTZ

The indissoluble link of the sea with the local gastronomy of Istria, Kvarner and the Croatial Littoral and the hotbed of culinary ideas brought by ocean-going ships have all had a profound impact of the flavour of today’s coastal menus. A deep respect of all types of seafood ranging from fresh fish to crustaceans is one of the main reasons behind numerous awards received by restaurant Barbat situated in the eponymous town near the city of Rab. Restaurant owner Davor Andrić and head chef Bruno Pahljina are constantly in contact with local fisherman in order the obtain the very best catch for the restaurant. Shrimp delicacies are altered throughout the year. Apart from numerous classic dishes such as shrimp a la buzara, grilled shrimp or fritaja with shrimp and asparagus, the duo particularly recommend their ingenious carpaccio.

Cleaned shrimp are always marinated with olive oil and orange juice. We don’t use lemon because of its strong acid which has too intense a flavour and whitens the meat. The shrimp which has been marinated in such a way is served with various beds, sheep quark in spring and melon purée in summer. The melon just needs to be blended and make the purée. Given that is still contains a lot of water, we add some ABC cheese and a bit of orange liqueur. Then we prepare a bed of chopped green apples and cleaned cucumbers. This is an extremely refreshing dish with different textures, which makes it interesting. – head chef Bruno Pahljina told us.Image author: Ivo Biočina/HTZ

Fresh catch coming from fishing nets constantly shapes the culinary tale of restaurant Sv. Nikola in Poreč whose work has been recognised by Michelin and included it in its map. The mere mention of shrimp makes the restaurant’s team start enumerating numerous specialties guest can choose from. Head chef Martin Bukovac told us more about the shrimp at restaurant Sv. Nikola.

In our restaurant we exclusively use shrimp stemming from Kvarner. Unlike other shrimp, the Kvarner shrimp is rich in iodine, its meat is white and healthy, it’s delicious and easy to prepare and it’s meat is so good it’s best eaten raw. We prepare raw shrimp tartare, grilled shrimp, shrimp a la buzara, whereas we use cleaned shrimp tails with pasta and risottos. They’re extremely delicious and can be paired with numerous ingredients. We use the entire shrimp at the restaurant and this includes the shell which we use to make bisque. It acts as a perfect flavour intensifier in shrimp dishes. The bisque is prepared by cleaning the shrimp, separating the head from the tail and washing the shells in water. The shells are then oven-baked together with diced carrots, leek and celery at 200 °C for twenty minutes. When they’re done, we put the ingredients in a pot, add some water, add a bit of tomato paste, laurel, thyme, rosemary and leave it to simmer for two hours. When that’s done, we blend all the ingredients and pass it so as to get a sauce or shrimp stock.

The hospitality workers of Novigrad take particular credit for making seafood famous and their culinary skills have already been recognised at an international level. Restaurant Damir i Ornella has been recommended by Michelin as well as other preeminent world gourmet publications. In addition to knowledge, hard work and experience, the Beletić family is always focused on quality ingredients.

We make entire five-course menus using Kvarner shrimp. But other menus are also most commonly started with shrimp sashimi. Fresh shrimp sashimi is cleaned and prepared before the guest’s very eyes. The tails are first cleaned, while the heads are discarded. The raw shrimp is seasoned with Nin fleur de sal, a selection of Belić olive oil and we have five kinds of pepper. The less they’re tampered with, the better the shrimp. In that case it’s easier for guests themselves to recognise the ingredient’s quality. – restaurant owner Damir Beletić told us.

If you’re wondering how to tell the difference between Croatian and imported, mostly frozen shrimp, the colour is the main tell-tale sign. Adriatic shrimp have a bright red colour and a thin shell, a fuller and sweeter flavour. The texture of fresh meat is much firmer and consistent as opposed to frozen meat, which loses it flavours and colour upon defrosting and such meat becomes rough or disintegrates. Our head chef also explained the difference between Kvarner and Adriatic shrimps. Given that Adriatic shrimp are caught in deeper waters, their colour is paler and brighter, while Kvarner shrimp have a distinct orange colour, they’re sweeter and have a full head.