Restaurant Đuđa & Mate: Take Me To The River

By: John J. Goddard
Article_jeguljanaraznju

Growing up near the Mississippi River - or any other clouded, brackish body of water - can give one a dismal view of eating freshwater fish. Generally speaking, it's unspoken law that the best thing you can do for the meal is to hide the true flavor of a fish that has spent its life wallowing in silt and eating pretty much anything that swims in front of it. With catfish, for example, the most common cooking technique involves soaking little cutlets in buttermilk, applying several layers of heavily seasoned breading, deep frying beyond recognition, then dousing liberally with Tartar sauce, lemon juice or Tabasco. Or all three. We'll do anything to prevent ourselves from tasting the river from which these hideous beasts were obtained. Or, we eat chicken.

Imagine, then, that you are entering Vid, once the ancient Roman settlement of Narona. As you stroll across the bridge over the Neretva River, you can't help but be astonished at the clarity of the aquamarine waters rushing beneath you. A warm breeze rustles through the tall grasses and reeds standing guard over the river banks, and as you inhale you think to yourself, "Perhaps I want to taste this river."
Trust us. You do.

Eel on the spit

And, luckily for you, the place to do that in Vid is just on the other side of the bridge. At Restaurant Đuđa & Mate, the flavors of the Neretva river delta reign supreme, from skewer roasted river eel to wild coot prepared in the hunter's style. And then there is the crowning glory of Neretva cuisine, the regional brudet of eels and whole frogs in spicy paprika broth, served with fat dumplings of polenta and plenty of fresh bread to soak up the juices.

Hearty and satisfying, neretvanski brudet is the sort of wild cuisine you could expect to find in the Louisiana bayou, only without the swampy aftertaste. The meat of the eels and frogs from this area is rich, yet as fresh and clean tasting as you'd expect from such clear waters. And if you find yourself needing a nap after a bowl or two of this southern Dalmatian delight, Đuđa & Mate also happens to feature a guesthouse for the full-bellied traveler.

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