A specific Krk pasta – šurlice – became a signature dish of this northern Adriatic island, the biggest one in Croatia. Many local restaurants and taverns have šurlice on their menus, preserving it as one of the highlights of the Krk gastronomy.
To make šurlice, you just need flour, oil, and water. Some add salt, some don’t. Easy, isn’t it? Well, quite the contrary. The form of šurlice is made with very skilful hands, coiling on the small wooden stick. Some say šurlice is home dish of the town Vrbnik, others claim it should be fair to say it was eaten all over Krk. Today, for sure, šurlice is island’s pride, and it is fair to say it goes perfectly with the Vrbnik Žlahtina, prime wine of the island.
The same goes for Punat, a small town situated on the east coast of Puntarska draga (Puntar Bay) only 8 km from the town of Krk. This place is famous for its marina, home port for all those enjoying the beauties of the Croatian sea and islands. Logic goes, where there are sailors, there is good foods; it is summer and we’ve decided to visit Punat exactly to try the famous šurlice in the tavern Sidro.
Punat was in history a renowned shipyard for wooden boats and headquarter to a powerful steamship company. Quite early, already in the beginning of the 19th century, tourism developed here, associated with the Franciscan monastery on the islet of Košljun. Also, the royalties came here to enjoy picturesque and serene seaside nature and seek a spiritual refuge with the friars. Now, hordes of modern yachting tourists come, along with those preferring camping.
In fact, right in the camp we met Mr Branko Karabaić, the director of the Punat Tourist Board and Cultural-Artistic Society Punat (KUD Punat) that cherish local folk dances and customs. KUD Punat is certainly among the best such associations in Croatia, only one of the three such KUDs licenced to present whole Croatian heritage. It is a special recognition for Punat which is a rather small place.
Especially praised is their choreography of traditional Krk dance, Krčki tanac. It is a specific island dance which cannot be played without sopile, a traditional instrument made of olive wood and of a specific sound, played as duo. Everywhere on this island people play these dances for centuries, although the melody is sometimes inapprehensible for tourists.
KUD Punat regularly plays this dance all over Croatia and the world; some of the last sopile makers (sopac) are from Punat. Among these, Marijan Orlić is particularly known to produce it, repairs it, and plays it; all arts not known to be found in one person for decades! How it sounds you can see on the following Youtube clip. Mind that two women from Vrbnik make šurlice at the spot!
Šurlice is a festive meal. Usually, it was made for weddings and sometimes for holidays. Mr Karabaić points out that šurlice are warm appetizer at weddings but very important ones and they are coming to the table followed by sopile music! Otherwise, the glory of šurlice and its deep rootedness in Krk culture cannot be experienced.
Puntari (the Punat inhabitants) keep their heritage well, which is especially stressed in cuisine. The place itself survived through the centuries relying on agriculture, olive growing, fishing, sheep breeding and wooden shipbuilding. When one enters Punat, one can see vast olive orchards, a testimony to this noble and Biblical tree, whose golden drops made Romans name Krk the Golden island. In fact, Punat hosts one of the most cherished festival of olive oils in Croatia!
Among the olive trees roam sheep, the true treasure of the island and traditional addition to šurlice. Krk lamb is delicious and often a topic of discussion among different sheep-herding regions of Croatia about whose lamb is the best. Olives and sheep are stone drop away from the nearest beaches and resorts.
In older days, Punat’s balconies and stone terraces were adorned with octopus arms. People used to dry octopus on sun and wind in a manner followed for centuries. It was used later for beautiful and rich dishes, especially stews and brodettos. Fish and seafood specialties are still signature dishes in Punat taverns, always spiced with original extra-virgin olive oil.
A quite special and original Punat dish is autumn soup kiselica. Cabbage is drowned in warm water and is marinated with marc, the over-fermented grape skins left after pressing grapes for wine. As the red grape is used, the marinade gets purple colour and dries. After several weeks it is cut, cooked as a soup with a mix of garlic, parsley and pancetta, with addition of dried meat. Excellent autumn soup is also healthy as it keeps your body sour and defendable against the viruses in cold weather. Some of you might also bless if for curing hangover! Such a dish can be ordered in autumn in tavern Ladići.
No visit to Punat can go without a visit to the islet of Košljun. It is known for the Franciscan monastery where the monks have collected and preserved numerous valuable items for centuries. The islet has a museum with an ethnographic collection containing numerous items produced by Krk fishermen and farmers, as well as folk costumes from across the Island of Krk. The monastery also owns a rich zoological collection consisting of a large seashell collection and unique animal specimens, such as the one-eyed lamb.
The monastery also has a rich library with around 30,000 titles. It includes the Ptolemy’s atlas printed in Venice in 1511 (one of the three preserved copies). The monastery is a zero category monument. There are two churches on the islet – the Church of Blessed Virgin Mary’s Annunciation and the Church of St. Bernard.
For more information contact the Tourist Board of Punat:
Photos by: TZ Punat & KUD Punat