Few will say with certainty what is in Croatian podlanica, zlatulja or štrigavica, although these are the names given to one of the noblest species of Adriatic white fish - sea bream. Close second, on the Croatian fish menus, sea bass follows, and the tasty and healthy trio makes more and more meagre. This fish is so delicious and pliable for gastronomy that the whole range of restaurant and hotel offers is based on good breeding. And that is exactly why we set off by boat from the bay of Mala Lamjana, on the island of Ugljan, towards the fish farm of the company Cromaris, which is one of the famous fishing entrepreneurial ventures of the exceptional fishing village of Kali.
We are in the hands of Marko Domijan, the manager of the farm, who deftly and professionally checks the net cages with fish. While the beautiful horizon with Dugi otok, Iž and other islands of the Zadar archipelago steal our views, we chat with two marketing experts, Vedran Dujmović and Rafael Kačinari. Morning coffee on the ferry from the Zadar port of Gaženica was enough for a pleasant conversation on all topics of the fish world, but also beyond that. In a light sea breeze, we reach the first nets where whitefish are bred for generations to the top quality for which Cromaris is known in Croatia, but even more so in the world.
"We know mom and dad for every fish," Marko tells us, and we find out very quickly that it is not a joke. Namely, the fish spawn comes from Cromaris' hatchery near Nin. This is one of the first fish hatcheries in the Mediterranean, opened back in 1981, while in 2015 Cromaris completely reconstructed and modernized this plant. This spawning lasts for about half a year, and then the fish grows in an area of high-quality seawater, where the fish can swim extensively and where a natural growth rhythm is provided. This ensures healthy fish and the whole process is carefully controlled to maintain the highest quality. In addition to the excellent fish trinity, greater amberjack is also grown here, which is becoming more and more present on the tables of pescatarians.
There are six farms in this company, and apart from Lamjana, where we were, the fish grows to a delicious Adriatic delicacy in the farm Košara, near the island of Pašman, Velo Žalo near the Kornati National Park, Kudica near the island of Iž, Žman near Dugi otok and Budava in Istria. A common feature of all these farms is the high purity of the sea.
There is a great emphasis, of course, on the sea bream, the Queen of the Sea who does not have that title just because of her golden spot on her forehead. The prized gilthead sea bream is known for its delicious white meat and is suitable for frying or grilling, stewing, cooking, or processing in the oven, and the larger the fish, the more favourable the options for filleting. The queen is sometimes called the goldfinch, which is the influence of ancient Rome and their famous poets Ovid and Pliny who used an even older Greek name for this fish, Chrysofrus - a fish with golden eyebrows, gilded or aurata or orata. Another name refers to the Greek name planika (buckthorn), which covered the slopes of the island and whose wild honey colour resembles the gilthead sea bream. Throughout the Mediterranean, sea bream is prepared in various sauces, creams, with aromatic herbs, but sometimes it is enough to just pour delicious white meat with extra virgin olive oil and enjoy the pure taste of the Adriatic. Therefore, the saying "there is no gold without seabream, no fish to sea bream!" is not in vain.
Some would disagree. There is an old story from Korčula that tells of an old islander who thought all his life, until his death, whether sea bream or sea bass was better. This predator is of the solid and elongated body and is characterized by mild and juicy flesh. The fierce, strong, and voracious, predatory sea bass was nicknamed the "sea wolf" in antiquity. There is also a meagre, which can grow more than two meters! Taste like sea bass, this fish has an excellent meat texture, which is tasty, light and juicy.
After visiting the farm, we head towards the "barge", a boat without a drive that serves as a silo for feeding fish. Cromaris has developed its fish food recipe, so the fish is rich in OMEGA-3 fatty acids, and the ratio of both OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6 fatty acids is favourable. The reason for this, the richness of proteins, phosphorus and vitamin D, which contribute to bone development, as well as the favourable ratio of fatty acids that contribute to a healthy heart, is that they do not use growth promoters, hormones or GMO raw materials. Finally, as we tour the barge, we follow the course of the feeding. This is not only about the act of giving the mixture to fish, but also the control of water quality, oxygen concentration, wastewater care, and several other factors aimed at preserving a healthy natural environment. For all this Cromaris has a number of certificates and awards.
The fish is processed and packed in Gaženica, and the final product is – to lick your fingers! We saw for ourselves, getting a couple of classic Cromaris products. What Cromaris is especially known for is fresh fish, available both as cleaned whole fish and as fillets. Particularly popular is skin packaging, in which sea bass, sea bream and meagre come filleted, cleaned of bones and belly, which means that the fish has never been easier to prepare! In addition to these products that can be the subject of your and our gastronomic imagination in the kitchen or the basis for culinary skills in one of the restaurants that procure Cromaris fish, the company itself offers delicacies. These are ready meals, smoked sea bass, bream and meagre fillets and marinated sea bass and bream fillers. We have tried and know that they are great, and for those who cannot remember a good recipe, we recommend that you check out some recommendations on the Cromaris website!
Cromaris fish markets can also be found in the wider North Dalmatian area. The only one in Ugljan is in Preko, just a few steps away from the port. The temperamental young salesman quickly explains what is on offer, we notice that the fish is fresh and preserved on ice, and how could it not, when the inscription "We know our fish" is visible behind it. Indeed, not only does Cromaris know dad and mom, how to feed and mature, but with the help of a LOT, number company can even determine which flock fish comes from, once it finds himself in a fish market! By merging the former pioneers of Croatian and European mariculture, the company is moving forward, to the pride of fishermen from the entire Zadar region and the Croatian Adriatic!
Gaženička cesta 4b, 23 000 Zadar, Croatia
email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.cromaris.hr
tel: +385 23 / 254-960 fax: +385 23 / 250-883
Photos by Cromaris and Taste of Adriatic