Kotor, Montenegro well and truly is a foodie heaven! Everything is seasonal and locally produced: fresh fish, seafood and plenty of delicious sweet treats to choose from. The Boka Bay region where Kotor is located is made up out of four bays, which have been named one of the most beautiful bays in the world. But it’s not just pretty views that this coastal region has to offer. The unique geographical location and rich history have hugely influenced the local cuisine over centuries, which makes sampling some of the regional classics not just a culinary, but a cultural expedition of the past and present. Here is everything you need to know about food in Kotor, including the must-try dishes that should be on every foodie’s wanderlist.
The Bokelian cuisine tells a story of the social, economic and historical past and present of the region. You may look at a menu in a local restaurant and notice certain similarities to the Italian, Russian or even the Hungarian cuisine. That is because the culinary identity of Boka Bay has been influenced by the many cultures that passed through, settled and merged with locals over the centuries, creating a unique food story in almost every cove. But don’t be fooled, the Bokelian cuisine isn’t just a patchwork quilt of various European cuisines. Despite the many influences the region is famous for adapting the original recipes to local taste, creating a unique blend that gives you a taste for the history of Boka Bay bite for bite.
The Bokelian cuisine isn’t just about the adaptation of foreign influences, it also represents a combination of ingredients from the coast and mountainous regions of Montenegro. The mountains surrounding the Boka Bay region act as a natural divider between two contrasting climate zones. The maritime climate in the coastal regions means that the temperatures are mild year round allowing local farmers to grow citrus fruits, olives and even grapes. The hills are used as farm land for livestock and to cultivate vegetables. The continental climate in the inland of Montenegro however is much harsher with long dry summers and cold, snowy winters. The two climate zones provide a variety of different ingredients influencing local cuisine, which created two culinary regions in Montenegro that don’t just exist alongside one another, but complement each other resulting in “fusion” dishes like the famous Kastradina with leafy greens or boiled beef with tomato salsa.
If you wander the streets in any town of the Boka Bay area in search of food, you will come across a lot of eateries saying “Konoba” on the sign. Originally a konoba was a basement used for the storage of meat and produce as well as a meeting place for men to socialise and eat. Nowadays Konoba stands for a type of eatery and while they might not be found in a basement these days, locals still try and preserve that original feel. A typical Konoba menu would include traditional seafood dishes and snacks.
Speaking of seafood dishes, by now you probably have a pretty good idea of the background of the local cuisine, so let’s talk food.
The proximity to the sea means that pretty much every restaurant you enter in Kotor will serve some form of fish or seafood. The bays are home to a variety of different fish species and the clean water conditions offer the ideal environment for mussels to grow. When you drive along the coast you will notice something that looks a lot like countless brightly coloured buoys, these are in fact mussel farms that are used to cultivate mussels for local consumption. Depending on where you choose to eat, they might serve wild or farmed fish and mussels. So it might be worth doing some research if you want to try fresh, wild fish and seafood. The best thing is to ask locals as the restaurant staff is likely to just tell you what you want to hear.
One local specialty you have to try if you like seafood is the black risotto made from cuttlefish ink and squid. The best way to try this Montenegrin classic is as part of a Seafood starter platter. This way you get to sample everything the region has to offer on one big plate. I’m not usually the biggest fan of seafood but I actually really enjoyed this dish.
One of my favourite ingredients that is used A LOT in the region are porcini mushrooms. They are incredibly flavoursome and a great vegetarian option as main ingredient for pasta and risotto dishes. You can buy them fresh or dried at the open-air market located to the right of the Sea Gate in Kotor or sample them in a tasty Risotto at one of the restaurants in the Old Town.
The origins of Strudel go back to the 18th century Habsburg Empire and the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the name of this tasty desert is Austria, not Montenegro. The local version of Strudel however is a great example for the many international influences that can be found in the regional cuisine and they certainly gave this dish their very own twist. The Strudel in Montenegro is a pastry with fruit filling, like cherry (not always the traditional apple strudel) and often served cold in bakeries. Strudel is the perfect snack to go with a cup of coffee and the view of the bay.
Kotor Cream Pie (Kotorska Krempita)
One thing that was recommended to me and on my list of things to try while in Kotor was Kotorska Krempita, the Kotor Cream Pie. While the locals might not be willing to share the recipe with you (it’s top secret!), they’re more than happy to for you to taste the Krempita. Make sure you get your slice early in the day. The demand is high and sometimes local cafes and bakeries sell out fast.
If you’re a lover of coffee like me, you’ll be pleased to know that Kotor has some ridiculously good coffee. My guide Goiko told me that it is almost impossible to get a cup of bad coffee anywhere in the country. You can expect to pay around 1€ – 2,50€ for a cup, depending on where you are and you will be served a glass of still water to go with it. The way a good coffee should be served. Make sure to ask for a Turkish coffee, which is ground coffee boiled, then settled – the result is incredibly strong and tasty!
Kotor certainly isn’t short of local wine and beers for you to try and while all the drinks that I’ve tried during my stay could be recommended, I want to introduce you to Montenegro’s national drink: Rakia. Rakia is a very strong spirit with an alcohol content between 40% & 80% and while it can be made from pretty much any fruit, grapes seem to be the most commonly used. According to locals Rakia is said to kill off any bacteria in your body, which in some parts of the country means that the spirit is consumed in the morning to support the body’s immune system. After having tried this bombshell of a drink, I can safely say while this might be nice after a large meal, I could definitely not drink this at 08:00 am in the morning and still expect to get anything done.
I recommend trying Trpeza, a fantastic seafood and fish restaurant in the Old Town of Kotor. They only serve fresh, high quality food and have an amazing menu to choose from.
The complimentary starter varies every day, but they are often fish-based. The fresh, wild fish selection is amazing. The tuna steak I ordered as a main was full of flavour and nothing like any tuna I had tasted before. If fish isn’t your cup of tea, you will still find plenty of vegetarian & meat-based choices on the menu.
They also have a great wine selection: whether you’re in the mood for some local wine or an international option, you’re in the right place. My recommendation is a delicious, almost chocolately red from Croatia: Postup Donja Banda.
The wine however is a lot pricier than the beer at most places, so if you’re on a budget, stick to beer.
Where to find it:
Stari grad 478, pjaca od mlijeka. Make your way to the square with the two orthodox churches in the Old Town of Kotor and take the small alley between the small church (St. Luke) to your right and the big church (St. Nicholas) in front of you.
The prices: Mid-range (most mains are between 14€ – 20€)
Be aware: Some restaurants, including Trpeza are closed during the winter season as visitor numbers are considerably lower in the off-season.
Thanks to TO Kotor for hosting me during my stay in Kotor and making my visit a truly memorable one. As always all opinions are my own and I never write about services/destinations or companies that I don’t believe in.
If you’re looking for more restaurant suggestions & travel tips for the region, check out the TO Kotor website.
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