Eating dormice on Hvar Island

One of the most unique culinary traditions in Croatia is probably the tradition of eating dormice ( lat. Glis Glis). It is an ancient tradition as dormice were very popular appetizer with Roman emperors. The tradition in Europe is almost completely lost except in Slovenia and Croatia. In Croatia, dormouse (or puh in Croatian) is eaten in  the Rijeka hinterland (Kastav primarily) and on islands of Brac and Hvar.  Since I am always curious about traditional tastes and cuisine, I started arranging this meeting a while back. What kind of a local travel specialist am I if I don’t see or try everything? Finally, when my friends Ante of MtHvar and Jure of Me and Mrs Jones restaurant in Jelsa managed to get everything in place, the weather forecast was bad. Really bad.
Since I had another meeting on Hvar, I was not going to miss this dinner.

Zarače ...
Zarače …

Instead of having this dinner in Dol – the dormice capital of Hvar Island – we had to move to another location so went to Ante’s friend’s restaurant in Zarače cove. It was cold and snow in the air. On sunny Hvar? Oh, yes…

Mediterano - plavac by Vinarija Svirče
Mediterano plavac 2009 –  by Vinarija Svirče

But we first went to Svirče wine cellar to get something to drink for this special dinner. Plavac Mediterano was a good choice and, at 60 Kn per bottle, a great value.

Soon, the members of Dol’s own Tartajun – cultural association by very small group of locals that still live in Dol – arrived with a bag of defrosted dormice. The hunting season for dormice is before it goes for it’s winter rest as then it is the fattest and, connoisseurs would say, the tastiest. There are two hunting methods: traps or BB guns. Traps are far better as BB guns can hit the gallbladder and make the meat fairly bitter. The tradition of eating dormice in Dol is ancient and dates to the times when people were quite poor and had no meat to eat during winter months.

Getting them ready!
Getting them ready!

There are several methods for preparing dormice but only grilling them on hot coals is the method used on Hvar. In Kastav region and Gorski kotar, dormice is prepared in numerous ways: from soup to stew with palenta or gnocchi.
Some people also grill them but first burning their fur and without skinning them. That way dormice are fatter and of different taste but some don’t like the smell of burned fur.

We went for traditional local way.

You need quite a few of them
You need quite a few of them

And, being so small, they don’t require a lot of time on the grill so someone is suggesting this as a very different, traditional  fast food. The slogan for their annual dormice fiesta is “Jednega puha u dvi fete kruha” or “One dormouse between two slices of bread”.

And then it was on the table.

Not an actual serving suggestion
Not an actual serving suggestion

Hardly any meat on the dormouse. Only the hind legs provide with something to actually bite with rest of the animal being a bit too bony. The fella next to me nicely devoured everything to bones but I did not really felt like it. The meat is actually quite tasty and not resembling anything I have ever had so that was interesting.

But, just to avoid being hungry after having dormice, we did have some fish and squid ready for gradele.

Dalmatian classic
Dalmatian classic

The real surprise was dried and salted bogue fish (bukva, bugva in Croatian)! It was not too dry so it was still good for grill and it was nothing short of superb. Also, the restaurant in Zarače uses only it’s own salt that the owner collects from the rocks near the restaurant making this a very local foodie experience.

As the heavy rain mixed with snow was falling outside the traditional delicacies and wine of Hvar kept us warm…

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9 thoughts on “Eating dormice on Hvar Island

  • We really enjoy reading your blog.
    We have an apartment in Slatine and are sitting here in Bergen, Norway watching the camera in the small port in Slatine with 10 cm of snow…that is excately what it looks like outside our wiindow here,
    something is not right.
    We have been going to Slatine since 2005 and enjoyed every trip. Now we will try out all these nice places that you mention , really looking forward to Easter when the first trip is planned this year.
    First stop will be the restaurant you mentioned some time ago near Biograd, it is time to get away from the main road.

    Lin and Helge

  • Dear Lin and Helge! So glad that you will actually get off the main roads and look for true Croatia 😉 I have passed the Ciovo yesterday in the most severe weather and it was unbelievable. But the sun is back now and time to go out and take some more photos of this very unusual and very cold winter. Thank you for your support!

  • The concept of eating a rodent at first is very strange but why not? We have several shows on the Travel Channel (Andrew Zimmer and Anthony Bourdain) where the hosts eat the local foods that are unusual for Americans. They survive and I long understood if I don’t think about WHAT it is but just taste and decide then it will be easier for me. I have eaten a lot more interesting foods since that decision.

  • Defrosted dormice… great piece, thanks for sharing. Will do an intro on the site and link back here. Thought your readers might be interested in the wonderful dormouse festival Tartajun organise every August – a very local affair with a wonderful and very surreal atmosphere, where the only currency accepted is the Superpuh – 5 kuna buys 1 Superpuh

    http://www.suite101.com/news/croatias-strangest-festival-celebrating-dormice-in-dol-hvar-a385378

    T-shirt cheers from Hvar – very sunny today…

  • @ customtripplanning – yes! Everything is about the taste and not forcing anyone to eat what they don’t want to. We just have to be open to experience.
    @ dalmacija – puhijada je opet na Hvaru u 8. misec. Nije daleko :))

  • I’ve never seen this on Solta – or on Brac or Hvar for that matter – but I’d surely like to try! Why not?

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