Not Your Average Gourmet Class: Salting Sardines in Fažana

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Budimir Žižović

More than 2.000 people have been taught the traditional skill in the last 15 years the manifestation has been taking place in Fažana

Spend a couple of weeks on the Adriatic coast, and you’ll realise every proper folk festival comes hand in hand with a presentation of traditional crafts. And while any opportunity to learn about the ways things were done in the good ol’ days is one we’ll gladly take, it’s even better when you get a chance to participate and try your hand in something that you just might find useful in your everyday life.

We’re looking to Istria this time around, as the town of Fažana near Pula hosted an attractive manifestation on Saturday, April 28. Hundreds of visitors flocked to the waterfront to either observe or take part in a delightful crash course: salting sardines!

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A humble little fish that makes for a meal worthy of kings, the sardine (srdela or sardela in Croatian) is one of the staple features of the Adriatic cuisine. Keeping that in mind, it doesn’t come as a surprise that this is the 15th year in a row the beloved manifestation is taking place. According to Glas Istre, the salting school has seen some 2.000 students thus far, including three generations of families and a large number of children who learned the basics of this timeless skill. Apart from the practical side, the participants were also introduced to a bit of history – to be more precise, the pre-refrigerator era, when various foods could have only been preserved by salting.

More than 40 teams tried their hand in salting last weekend, under the watchful eye of their mentor Budimir Žižović and several fishermen from Fažana. The course called for a couple of items only: fish, salt, and tins, all of them provided to the students who got to take their freshly salted sardines home to rest for a couple of months. They’ll have to present the end result of their work on August 12, when the salt-cured fish will be assessed by the judges. Previous editions of the manifestation have drawn attention from Japanese and Finnish TV networks; a Polish TV crew joined the locals this time around. 

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As it often goes in Istria and the Adriatic as a whole, the main event was accompanied by a lot of entertaining side features. A splendid gastronomic offer enjoyed by the entire town, creative workshops and games devised for kids, a sailing school presentation… visitors were taught how to make fishing nets and got a chance to row in wooden batana boats, while the more ambitious took part in the race ‘Sardela Run’. All in all, a fun day for visitors of all generations!


Photo credit: Budimir Žižović


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