Five Foods To Try In The Czech Republic
I’m going to be honest. Prior to visiting the Czech Republic (okay, booking my plane tickets), I knew next to nothing about Czech food, not even a dish or two. It just doesn’t have the same cachet that cuisines like German and Russian have. But the more I started researching, the more excited I became over the prospect of trying out this rich and hearty cuisine. And while the food was on the heavier side, I still didn’t find it as heavy as what I ate in Germany. I know some people would laugh at this but it’s true; my arteries noticed a world of difference between the two countries’ cuisines. If you have plans to visit the Czech Republic, here are five foods you don’t want to miss.
Chlebíčky (open face sandwiches)
Chalk it up to culinary ignorance, but open face sandwiches were something I always equated with Scandinavia. Imagine my pleasant surprise when these were one of the items I was introduced to on my Prague food tour. Just as with the Danish smørrebrød, options can vary. On my tour I was lucky enough to try three different types of chlebíčky-two vegetarian (one with beets, the other with celery root), and one with meat (potatoes, gherkins, hard boiled eggs, and ham). If you thought Czech food was all about meats featuring rich and creamy sauces, the chlebíčky will prove you wrong. I definitely recommend sampling as many as possible. These are something I would love to try to replicate myself.
Staročeská Zelnice (sauerkraut soup)
I know what you’re thinking, sauerkraut soup? If you’re like me, you probably have a mild aversion to the fermented cabbage that smells fairly pungent. Well, rest assured that in a dish like staročeská zelnice , the pungency of the sauerkraut is definitely scaled back because your senses are too busy focusing on other ingredients like the cream, spicy sausage, and paprika. Although I actually ended up eating this on a rather hot day (thankfully the restaurant was air-conditioned), I could see this as being the most wonderful thing in the world to eat on a cold winter Prague day (or anywhere in the country because let’s be honest, it gets extremely cold in the Czech Republic come winter). It’s a simple soup and thus the epitome of comfort food.
Svíčková (dumplings, braised beef, cranberry compote)
Svíčková is essentially the Czech Republic’s national dish, what all households across the country serve as their Sunday meal, what Sunday pot roast was to American homes (at least 50+ years ago). It consists of bread dumplings, a cranberry compote, and braised beef which is topped with a delectable root vegetable sauce. I still laugh when I remember our guide on the food tour telling us how in Czech households, men would eat more than half a dozen of the bread dumplings with their meal!
This was another of those food items I was ignorant about even though I always knew of it. When one hears the name goulash it’s automatically equated with Hungary. However, as I would discover on my trip to Central Europe last year, goulash can be found all over including Germany but it did indeed originate in the medieval kingdom of Hungary. It’s a soup or stew (depending on the version you’re eating) comprising meat and vegetables and seasoned with paprika and other spices. And as I would discover from seeing subsequent restaurant menus in Prague, you can get either regular or spicy goulash (because yes, there’s also such a thing as sweet or spicy paprika).
Okay, I realize this is somewhat generic but the Czechs know how to do their sweets. (What Central European country doesn’t?) Rather than have to pick just one to go on about (i.e. trdelník, I’m looking at you), I wanted to be able to write about multiple sweet options you should seek out when in the Czech Republic. There are, of course, street food sweets like koláč (a type of sweet cookie-shaped bread) and gingerbread, not to mention jablečný závin (apple strudel). But my personal favorite was indeed the trdelnik, which is made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and a walnut mix. It’s what waffles are to Belgium, as in you see it and places to get it everywhere. In the United States (and possibly other English-speaking countries), it’s known as chimney cake and seems to be getting big here too.
And if you’re like me and love duck, order some. It is on just about every menu in Prague. Unfortunately I ran out of time to try “Czech duck” and it’s something I still partially regret.
Which item of the five I listed would you like to try the most?
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