Peka in Dubrovnik: Savor the Authenticity

When we plan our visit to a destination, we try to discover as much as possible about it. Gastronomy is undoubtedly one of the ways in which we get to know the country or region we’re visiting.
Although Dubrovnik is located on the coast, and the seafood specialities are a must, I’d put the spotlight on peka (a meat speciality).

The local specialty – peka

What is peka? Peka is a traditional method of preparing many specialties throughout Croatia. It involves cooking dishes over an open fire using a clay or wrought-iron pan.
This method of food preparation was used for a wide variety of purposes and dishes. Bread, lamb, veal, octopus… are all cooked over an open fire.

La Peka: Dubrovnik’s gastronomic treasure trove

The term peka comes from the name of the container in which the dish is prepared. The pot is dome-shaped and resembles an iron bell. The cooking lid has a handle at the top, which is used to lift it off the base, as once heated, the heavy lid would be too hot to touch. Because of the weight of the lid and the extremely high temperature, a wooden stick is used to lift the lid.
The oven consists of two parts: a base placed on the heated hearth, on which food was placed ready to be baked, and a heavy lid that allowed the contents of the oven to be baked in its own juices at the same time.

How do I prepare Peka?

Peka spécialité locale Dalmatie

Once all the ingredients have been prepared, they are placed in a shallow but wide oval dish, which is covered with a lid. Once the lid has been placed on the dish, the cooking bell is covered with glowing embers. To prepare food under the grill, it is necessary to prepare high-quality embers from pieces of wood such as hornbeam or beech. Not only did the embers heat up from above, but the fire also smoldered under the lower part of the baking dish, ensuring even cooking of its contents.
Preparing food under the oven is one of the most time-consuming methods of roasting. Thus, depending on the quantity and type of meat, the oven could be kept under heat for several hours, while its contents had to be turned over several times to ensure even cooking on all sides. . The embers therefore had to be carefully maintained to withstand several hours of preparation.

What’s best for Peka?

It is precisely because of the many hours of preparation that peka is one of the specialties that must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. Pastries are prepared in advance and are nowadays usually portioned, with one pastry for two people. This is not a dish that restaurants keep in stock, so it is reheated when ordered on the spot.
Meat cooked under the grill is juicy and soft, and falls off the bone. The essential accompaniment to these dishes is the potato, whose aroma is particularly delicious when boiled and cooked in the meat juices.

Peka préparation des ingrédients

Veal and lamb are used for cooking. In some restaurants, you can also order octopus, but as it is not part of the traditional recipe, not many restaurants offer this option.
Peka is quite nourishing. If you decide to have an appetizer, we recommend sharing a portion of prosciutto and homemade cheese.

Will it be possible to request peka in the old town?

In Dubrovnik, open fires are forbidden within the city walls. The restaurants in the Old Town don’t offer peka, but you can find it in other parts of the city.

The closest restaurant to the old town that serves Peka is called Pjatanca.
This restaurant is opposite the old quarantine building, Lazareti. Regardless of its proximity to the old town, Peka is not served for strolling. Due to the time-consuming process involved in preparing a perfect Peka, reservations should be made at least one day in advance.

If you’re in Dubrovnik for a few days and have time to visit the surrounding towns, I recommend the Konavle restaurants.
The restaurant to suggest is Vinica Monković located on the banks of the river Ljuta

Cooking class, half-day excursion

For the full experience, I suggest the Peka cooking course. The tour lasts around five hours and can therefore be arranged for lunch and dinner. As the preparation of Peka itself takes several hours, your host will already put the meat on the table, and it’s up to you to prepare the starter and dessert.
On arrival at the property, the host will welcome you with the house brandy or liqueur. In this case, it’s a welcome, and in the old days, brandy was drunk to wake up before going to the fields. Once you’ve settled in, your host will accompany you to the garden, where you can pick vegetables for your salad, or eggs for a cake. If there are small calves or goats, you can try your hand at milking the cows.