When you need a break from Croatian fare, Zagreb has it all.
Having lived in San Diego, San Francisco, Nashville, and London, it’s safe to say that my taste buds have grown to love the flavors of the world. From Baja fish tacos and breakfast burritos in San Diego, Thai and Hong Kong style noodles in San Francisco, southern BBQ in Nashville, and healthy helpings of curry in London, being confined to the flavors of Croatia gets a bit trying at times.
Not to say that I don’t love Croatian food – these are the specialities I have grown up with and have grown to love – but sometimes you need a kick of spice, a piping hot plate of Asian noodles, or a hint of coriander to satisfy the needs of your palate.
Living in Split, I have learned to become resourceful. While I can find most of what I need to make my favorite international dishes, something is always a bit off. Maybe I just need more practice. Or maybe I just need to visit Zagreb more.
My family and I usually make the trip to Zagreb when we’re in need of food-cation. The capital city over the last few years has seriously upped their culinary offering, and when the cravings are just too real for a melting pot of international flavors, it’s not hard to find the authentic tastes of Asia or Mexico we seek.
Over the weekend, we made the trip back to Zagreb. While the journey had a purpose (to see the Croatian national team play), we found that the purpose ultimately changed to what we would be eating.
We meticulously planned our days around the restaurants we’d visit, ensuring just enough time for our stomachs to settle in between meals before we’d embark on our next culinary adventure. It’s safe to say this wasn’t the first time we’ve done this.
Once we finally arrived in Zagreb, we went straight to Asia Gold – a restaurant we visit when the flavors of Asia are on our mind.
Located on Radnička cesta in Zagreb, Asia Gold is not directly in the center of town but not far, and in the same complex as the famous Green Gold nightclub. A taxi to the restaurant from our apartment in the center cost us around 17 HRK. We arrived precisely at 20:30, and we were ready to eat.
We began our meal with Tom Yam Gung, a Thai sweet and sour soup made with lemon grass, prawns, and mushrooms. And yes, they made it spicy.
Following the soup, we ordered Saigon Rolls made with rice paper, shrimp, salmon, rice noodles and peanuts, and our favorite Tempura battered frogs! We had to order two portions.
To cleanse the palate before the rest of our meal, we’d enjoy a soybean sprout and avocado salad.
Already full from the starters, we’d wait for a healthy helping of Goong Pat Thai.
And to finish, a Thai noodle pot with seafood, coconut milk, and red curry. At this point, we wouldn’t need anything more for the rest of the weekend.
On day two of our trip, we were still suffering from the food comas of the night before. But how could we resist tacos? We would go to new Zagreb foodie establishment Tacos & Burger Barr, located just across the way from Ban Jelačić Square.
After a starter of chips, salsa, guacamole, and a tuna ceviche salad, it was taco time.
I would order the grilled chicken tacos in a smoked chilli rub, pico de gallo salsa, young beans, and cheese.
My father would order the swordfish tacos with segments of citrus fruits, basil crema Mexicana, summer vegetables, and almonds. Oh, and it’s important to note that they make their own harina tortillas!
My mother tried the Chipotle Bacon Burger with chipotle ketchup and mayo, aioli, and crunchy speak. It had just the right kick of spice.
At this point, we needed wheelchairs to get around.
On Sunday before we made our way to Maksimir for the national team football match, we came across a world food festival in the European Square. “The World on a Plate”, which began on August 31st and ends on September 10th, brings together the many flavors of the world through an assortment of food stands.
From Venezuela to Ukraine, Mexico to India, Japan to Macedonia, and Cuba to Germany, this was a gastronomer’s jackpot.
Toying between whether or not I would settle for butter chicken or an arepa from the Venezuelan stand, I couldn’t resist the latter.
To explain just how much I couldn’t resist it, I forgot to take a photo. “Gone in 60 seconds”, some might say.
For those of you that are not familiar, an arepa is essentially a pocket of ground maize dough that is stuffed with either your choice of meat, veggies or cheese. I opted for the shredded chicken arepa topped with avocado, mayo, garlic sauce, and pico de gallo. If you’re in Zagreb, please don’t miss out on trying this. I hear they come from the food truck Arepa Hrvatska!
I’d swallow it down with a mango lassi from Royal India to make peace with my decision.
My parents went straight for the pierogis from BORŠČ. Slathered in sour cream, oh man were these good – and yes, this was another dish we finished before the photo.
For dessert, we’d have poffertjes, my favorite Dutch pancakes.
Another perk about Zagreb is that you can find all of the ingredients you need if you are willing to brave cooking your desired international delights at home.
For instance, every time we’re in Zagreb we make a stop at Pekinška Patka, and international mini market and online store. A place that has become my lifesaver for Mexican hot sauces, they even deliver to Split for 30 HRK!
Restaurant Asia Gold also has their own Asia Store where you can find anything you need when it comes to Asian cooking. With their current location on Illica 52, they will be opening another location at Area Center tomorrow.
Arriving back in Split at least 5 kilos heavier with a belly more satisfied than ever, consider us lucky to have Zagreb when we get that international itch.